Chapter Nine: Welcome Home, Goodbye – Part Two: Place of Origin
~~~Three Days Later~~~
“Oi, Neko-chan!” Kentarou called as he hefted his traveling pack onto the back of a klynx the Kirikas of the village lent to their group. “Hurry up, will you?”
Klynxes were huge feline creatures with feathers instead of fur as their cover. They were the size of a decently built caravan and capable of carrying heavy loads of gold weighing over ten tons for a period of a week without tiring. Because of their use, klynxes were used by virtually the entire world save for the two most technological cities of Beranda and Carchadia. The large animals were gentle by nature and thus easy to tame.
“I’m coming! I’m coming!” came Rydia’s voice somewhere inside Kaika’s home.
“Geez, says we gotta leave first thing today and she’s the one delaying it,” Kentarou muttered and stroked the klynx’s mane affectionately.
Sakana laughed as she hoisted herself onto her klynx’s back with some difficulty. Next to the klynx, the sky faerie looked incredibly small – especially since she was the smallest out of their group.
“She did spend a great deal of time talking to Kaika last night,” she explained.
“Women have their own problems to take care of,” Shion answered for Sakana as he, too, got onto the back of the last klynx. “Let her be. We’re not in a hurry or anything, idiot. And Rydia’s the only one who knows the way to her home.”
“I know that,” Kentarou snapped, although he didn’t intend to. The last few days of alack of sleep and hangover from his drinking spree with Shion were beginning to affect him. “Just want her to hurry up so I can get on.”
“She can always ride with me, Kentarou,” Shion suggested with a sly smile.
Like hell I will, was Kentarou’s initial thought but he refrained from saying anything. He knew that his friend was trying to get him to calm down. Hell, he didn’t even know why he was so aggravated in the first place.
“Would you like for me to switch with you, Kentarou?” Sakana asked him.
The bandit considered the suggestion for a minute before he shook his head. Out of the four, Kentarou was the only person who had experience in training and “speaking” to klynxes from his childhood training as a klynx trainer in his hometown, well before he joined Blank’s troupe. He had to lead their group and show Shion and Sakana how to maneuver the klynxes, and Rydia had to act as navigator for him. Plus, Sakana’s klynx held the majority of their supplies of food and shelter, and it looked as if the sky faerie’s weight was as much as the creature could stand.
“No, it’s okay,” he told her. “But why do we only have three of these guys, anyway?”
“The hunting team from the village left earlier this morning before dawn,” Shion explained. “All they could afford to give us was three klynxes.”
Kentarou muttered an uncomprehendible curse as he looked back at Kaika’s home. He wanted to leave quickly. His sixth sense crawled in the back in of his head, telling him that something was out of place. He had the nagging feeling that they were being watched. By whom or what, he was uncertain.
“Oi, neko-chan, HURRY UP!!!”
Rydia gritted her teeth in annoyance as she set the last of her daggers into her worn holster.
“It’s not my fault that somebody was playing with my knives yesterday,” she grumbled.
Kentarou had wanted to see the quality of her daggers the night before without much of a valid excuse. He mentioned to the sorceress about bandit raids from other troupes and Shion had talked her into letting the amber-eyed swordsman test the strength of her weapons. The result ended in a majority of them stuck onto a tree nearby before they were hastily placed on top of her holster after she had returned later that night.
“All right, that’s done,” she said with a sigh and grabbed her satchel when another knock came at the door.
Knowing well beforehand who it was, she called in the Kirikan tongue, “Come in.”
Kaika hesitantly opened the door with a sad yet sheepish smile on her face. In her hands she held a leather bag.
“(These are…some weapons that have been in our Clan)” the Kirika leader said softly. She walked towards Rydia and handed her the bag. “(They might help you and your friends.)”
Rydia received the bag, surprised at how light it felt despite its large size. However, the sorceress had to remind herself that the Kirikas were capable of making weapons that were deadly to the touch yet light as a bird. Yet these felt too light to be true. She opened the bag to peek into its contents and her eyes widened at the array of weaponry it held inside. There was an assortment of knives, three swords, and a crossbow with a pack of arrows. Each weapon shined brightly, their blades made of energy crystals that were found deep underground.
They weren’t ordinary weapons – these were heirlooms.
“(But I can’t…)”
“(It’s to thank Tamashi for all his help until now)” Kaika told her. “(And we won’t be needing these weapons anytime soon.)”
Rydia looked up, realizing the meaning hidden in her words. All the Kirika men had been wiped out by disease – there wasn’t going to be a “pure” Michika bloodline or a successor. Kaika would be the last.
“(Kaika…)” Kaika nudged her towards the door. “(Go on, take them. Besides, that golden-eyed friend of yours sounds too impatient to wait.)”
“(You’re not going to see us off?)”
The leader of the Kirika Michika clan, her childhood friend, smiled sadly and shook her head.
Ryuuho smiled into the globe that projected the two young women, identical in looks but opposites in personalities. Both women were pale, like him, but with violet hair – one had it shorter than the other – and cold, soulless amber eyes that showed neither pain nor fear of death. Both women had a birthmark pattern on their left cheek and pointed ears like fae. Yet the twins were neither fae nor human. They were the result of a forbidden experiment between human and dark fae, very much like their commander.
“Well done, the both of you,” he addressed them. “So, she has decided to go back there and find that scroll?”
“Apparently so,” the woman with the longer hair said. She let out a small chuckle. “The girl is so naïve. It is possible to take her now, especially with such a lax guard among her comrades.”
Ryuuho instinctively bristled when the image of Kentarou crossed his mind. “There is no need to, Jade. I want you and Jax to return.”
The twin sisters looked at one another and then back at Ryuuho.
“May I ask why?” Jade asked.
“The two of you have some…family matters to attend to,” Ryuuho answered with a cruel smile.
The sisters mirrored his smile. “So you found him?”
“Yes. Nothing is hard to find, especially a man like your father. Zaiken and Raiden will take your place until the both of you return.”
The sisters laughed as their images faded from the globe, leaving Ryuuho in its echoed darkness. He glanced back at the shadow behind him, putting his feelings for the young sorceress aside.
“Is it wise to test her now, Master?”
Raiden continued to stare at Schala although this time a faint hint of confusion crossed his stoic face. He had found the girl familiar, but the thought had drilled an intense pain into his mind and it took much of the demon’s will to drive it away. It was one of many disadvantages the soul contract gave him. The memories that were sealed upon her death and anything related to it brought about searing pain, but the power he received gave him the opportunity to extract his revenge – beyond the limits Archangel’s Kingdom allowed him to have before.
But what did her words mean? And why did a part of him agree with her?
“I am well aware of the consequences,” he slowly replied as if trying to confirm his own determination.
Schala continued to watch his reactions as Raiden looked away from her. She could tell that her old friend was struggling to find a place for his words and a place for himself: between the high archangel he was before and the vengeful demon he was now. It dawned upon her that this could be her chance to get him back to his old self and stop Orion’s resurrection.
“But what do you remember, Raiden?” she asked him. “What do you remember about your past?”
~~~Lilandre – a week later~~~
“I’m going to ask the innkeeper if we can stay here for free,” Rydia told the trio as she trotted inside.
Kentarou, Sakana, and Shion were getting off of their klynxes, a bit tired from the day’s worth of traveling. Rydia had taken the faster way and jumped of the creature before Kentarou could command it to sit down.
“Man, finally a town,” Shion commented as he stretched his limbs. “I was starting to get tired of seein’ all those trees and weird animals.”
“We were running low on food, too,” Sakana added as she patted the klynx’s head.
Kentarou said nothing as he got off, his thoughts far from the conversation. The feeling that made him think they were being watched had gone away as soon as they had left Michika, but it did nothing to ease his mind. A feeling deep inside him told the bandit that something was amiss, and it involved Rydia somehow.
Thinking back to Rydia, Kentarou regretted that the trip to Lilandre did not take longer. He was getting accustomed to her close presence even if they did argue a lot along the way. He shook his head at the thought. These feelings for the young sorceress were beginning to feel more than just “like” as Shion had put it. He had told himself and to his friend countless of times that he was just following Blank’s direct orders.
However, his stubbornness was waning each time he said that to himself.
“Oi, Kentarou.” Shion’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts as he looked at his friend who nodded to something or someone behind him. Sakana held a look of worry on her face, which made the bandit turn around. Two men were striding towards their group and their faces told Kentarou that they were not happy with something.
Ah, great, now what? was his initial thought.
“So there you are, ya amber-eyed thief!” one of the man announced with a smirk.
Rydia had just come out of the inn, about to inform her friends the news of their stay, but her mouth closed shut as she saw the two men approach them.
Kentarou just looked at them with a blank expression, which seemed to anger the two men a little more. When he was a kid, he hated people deliberately commenting about his eyes but now he had grown used to it.
“And…you are?” he asked, arching an eyebrow.
Shion couldn’t help but smile at the two men’s reactions, deciding to stay back from the situation and leaned against his klynx. He knew that Kentarou liked to take care of things involving his heritage himself, and that the rogue respected. Sakana looked lost on what to do, wondering what these men had to do with Kentarou, and Rydia was tempted to intervene but Shion grabbed both women’s arms and held them back shaking his head.
“Why you…you’ve got the guts to come back here,” the older of the two men, the one who called Kentarou earlier, said. “We owe you a big paycheck for ripping us off of that jewel a month ago!”
Kentarou continued to look at them before the vague memory resurfaced. He slapped his fist against the palm of his other hand.
“Oh….you’re the guys who I jacked that energy crystal from and had the balls to fight me!”
Rydia’s eyes also widened at Kentarou’s words and she began to make a feeble attempt to hide behind Sakana. She remembered that she guided these two in the wrong direction where Kentarou ran to. Unfortunately, though, the other man noticed her.
“Hey! You’re that girl who tried to help us!”
As the men tried to approach her and Sakana, Kentarou immediately stepped in between them, pushing Rydia to hide behind his taller frame. This action caused the men to step away from him, surprised and even more agitated. Before any of them could make way for violence, Shion straightened himself and stepped in. Their confrontation was beginning to attract some attention, which was probably not what anybody in their group wanted right now.
“Now come on, you guys, ease up,” he said, hands in the air in friendly manner. “Sir, you’ve probably got the wrong guy.”
“I know a thief when I see one,” the older man silenced. “And I know a Melbane when I see one.”
The muscles on Kentarou’s back visibly stiffened when the name “Melbane” was mentioned. Shion noticed this and lost his friendly air. His eyes were set hard in stone, eyes that held a cold outlook. Out of the many things he hated – which were rather few – it was the kind of people who did not really know the truth about certain events, especially when it came to his best friend’s background.
“So what if my friend here’s Melbane?” he began, the tone of his voice one that held a dangerous edge to it. “There’s not much of a difference between us.” He stepped closer to them, making full use of his height of six feet and odd inches. One thing that hadn’t changed about Shion over the years since he stayed with Kirika was his ability to make himself dangerously intimidating towards others.
In response, both men took a step back and glanced at each other nervously. Shion continued with his cold-hearted approach.
“Sure, he’s got amber eyes, but does that make him evil? Anybody can use magic nowadays once you know the basics,” he smiled mischievously. “And so what if he took an energy crystal from you? It’s your guys’ fault for not watchin’ it closely enough. Or would you rather deal with the Crimson Dragons instead?”
The men’s eyes widened at his last words.
“Y-you guys are with…”
“Just happen to be on business the last time,” Kentarou added his own touch to threat, his eyes visibly relaxing at Shion’s help. "What I took wasn’t yours. It was ours.”
Kentarou’s words seemed to add more impact to the volatile situation since the men knew his ethnicity. The bandit let a feral smile fall on his lips.
“And these two ladies happen to be in our jurisdiction. Lay one finger on them and mess with us…let’s just say that you’ll be lucky to land in the hospital.”
The men eagerly nodded in understanding and quickly walked away, mumbling to themselves about their debt to repay. The attentive crowd dissipated, disappointed that their curiosity was not rewarded.
An uncomfortable silence lingered among the group before Shion turned around with his normal friendly smile on his face.
“So, what’d the innkeeper say, Rydia?” he asked her.
The night sky was out in full circle, decorated by its bright stars that seemed to stretch for miles up above. They danced and whirled about, communicating with each other until they finally stopped at their own place. It was a great task for a sky faerie to manipulate its domain, and Rydia sensed that Sakana was doing this to get her to talk. The sorceress smiled sadly at the thought.
Her smile soon faded as she gazed up at the stars, continuing to think on her next goal. She wasn’t quite sure why she had suggested going back to the temple when she left in the first place. Perhaps it was because she was familiar with the surroundings in Michika and it led her to the assumption that she should make a stop at the temple once again. Odin had taken her on long journeys around the continent when she was little, but they would always come back to the temple to carry on with her training.
Yet this time, she wasn’t going back home for more training because Odin wasn’t there anymore.
No, that wasn’t quite right. She was going back to a place she used to call “home”. Rydia took out the amulet she had worn since it was given to her on her fourth birthday. It was quite dull, having no color or shine to make it stand out, which was fine with her since she was never too fond of extravagant pieces of jewelry. It was small in her hand, no bigger than a coin. An inscription in old Latician, the language of the people who lived in the Land of Summoners, covered the entire front side of the small piece. However, the writing was too small for her to read it. She figured it was something that her mother wanted to leave behind for her to solve on her won, along with all the other items that Rydia left behind at the temple which Odin kept sealed in a chest.
The items in the chest…the scroll she was never allowed to read. It dawned to her that she could go back and get that. Odin had forbidden her to even glance at the large roll until she had reached the summoner rank, or so he said. As a child, Rydia could never understand why her master had strictly forbidden her to peer into the chest – since technically they were hers – but now that she was older, she now understood. There was something in that scroll that was extremely important to hide from the enemy, whoever the enemy was. Yet whoever the enemy was, Rydia guessed it had to have been something that was related to her master’s death.
So you are learning, my child, a harmonic voice echoed in her head.
Rydia looked around, startled, before she realized that the voice was coming from inside her mind. …Siren?
The spirit of the faerie goddess laughed at her surprise, a soft golden glow buried deep within the depths of Rydia’s magic. I’m sorry to have frightened you. It’s just that you are always filled with thoughts that I couldn’t help but speak up. It seems that you can hear me now.
“…I guess I can,” Rydia replied out loud this time. She wasn’t quite used to having guardians in her body, infused with her magic, even though the sorceress had two previous guardians assimilated into her – the ice queen Shiva and the lightning god Ramuh – when she defeated them six years before. They never said much, if anything at all, to her and when they did it was hard for the sorceress to understand. The words were usually muffled, perhaps by an invisible barrier that she used to have before.
But it seemed that whatever happened to her when Siren assimilated into her, the faerie goddess had broken that invisible barrier. It still didn’t mean that Ramuh and Shiva spoke to her like Siren was now doing.
Do you know what is concealed in those scrolls?
Rydia shook her head even though she knew it was pointless to do so. “No, I don’t.”
Odin never told you?
“He…never told me anything until he thought it was right to do so.”
She could hear Siren sigh sadly in her mind. I see…
Rydia frowned at the faerie goddess’ reaction. She seemed to know something. “Siren…”
A knock came at the door, disrupting their conversation and Rydia’s impending question.
“Who is it?” she asked.
“Oi, neko-chan,” Kentarou’s voice replied from the other side. “Can I come in?”
Oh, no, he’s not going to do something weird or anything is he? came her initial thought at his request. She shook her head at the thought, knowing that even though he was rude at times, Kentarou was still very nice in a strange way, almost gentleman-like. If he wasn’t, then he wouldn’t have knocked.
“The door’s not locked,” she said.
The bandit entered quietly as Rydia turned back to look up at the stars from her seat at the window. He looked around the barren room and noted that there were only two places where he could sit: the bed or the chair closest to her. He opted for the latter, striding across the room without a sound, and turned the chair around so that he could rest his arms on the head rest. And he sat there behind her, watching.
She really did look different without her hair up in the pink ribbon, sitting at the window sill with the moon’s rays reflecting her hair. He could sit for hours and just watch her, he realized.
Slowly, he was letting his mind to allow these stray thoughts in. This was something more than just fulfilling Blank’s orders. Shion, the person who knew her the least, saw that even before Kentarou allowed himself to realize it. And being the ass that he was, he would force Kentarou to realize it before the chance slipped away, which was why he was here now.
Feeling his eyes watching her made Rydia uneasy. It was a tickling feeling emerging from her spine, and she felt weird since she could still see him from the corner of her eye. She wasn’t quite sure why he was watching her and why he was being so quiet. So she turned around, looking at him inquisitively.
Kentarou hid his bewilderment well, immediately drawn out of his thoughts by her voice. By the look she gave him, he had watched her too long.
“Mm…nothing,” he replied with a small smile on his face.
She frowned at his response, wondering what was going on in his head. He had been acting unusually…un-Kentarou like since she had been riding with him on the klynx. Of course, this Kentarou might be the “normal” Kentarou, not the one that she had gotten to know and get annoyed of by his sly comments. They had only known each other for two months, but it was long enough for her to recognize some of his typical moods.
This “I know something that you don’t” mood wasn’t one of them.
Come to think of it, he’s been like this ever since he met Shion again…she realized.
“Is there something so interesting on my face that you have to keep on looking at me like that?” she asked him with annoyance tinted in her voice, although she didn’t intend for it to fall out that way.
His smile just grew wider, the kind of smile that irritated her.
“Just lookin’ at the moon, is something wrong with that?” he lied. If there was one thing that Kentarou could thank Blank for besides providing him a place to stay would be the ability to lie convincingly.
Her mouth opened to say something else, but he changed the subject. “I was just wonderin’ why you seem a bit quiet after the run-in with those idiots this afternoon. You surprised that I’m Melbane?”
“No…not really,” she replied, thinking back to the words he murmured in his sleep that time in Michika. “When you were drunk in Michika you were talking in Melbane.” She paused, not wanting to tell him what he actually said. “And it explains the color of your eyes. Not a lot of people have amber eyes…”
She was staring at her hands while saying this, feeling embarrassed at her answer. However, his stare was making her extremely uncomfortable so she looked back up at him, surprising him a bit.
“Plus, I didn’t think that there were still people who had a great resentment towards Melbane – especially here. Lilandre’s a pretty…open-minded town.” She paused again, her cheeks burning a light pink at what she was about to say next. “Plus I always thought that the Melbane were kind of…cool.”
“Cool?” he asked.
“Well, yeah, you guys were able to use those cool demon art spells and all…”
Kentarou burst out laughing, taking Rydia by surprise. He nearly fell off the chair he was on. He would have never imagined that there was someone out in the world who would think of the Melbane as “cool” nevertheless anything positive.
Rydia watched him laugh, stupefied at his outburst. She was expecting some kind of retort from him, since his reaction at the man mentioning Melbane made him tense. A smile appeared on her lips. It was the first time she heard him laugh like this.
“Ah man,” he said as his laughter died down to another smile. “Never would’ve thought that would come from you…”
“’Cause, well…just because. I mean, I can understand that coming from Sakana, maybe, with her being fae and all…” He shook his head, the smile fading. “No, nothing.”
Rydia frowned again, seeing the change in his demeanor. He looked better when he smiled. More relaxed.
“I could care less about your past. At least you have one,” she whispered, looking back down at her hands. An image of the woman in chains crossed her mind.
“You know, you looked really cute all embarrassed like that.”
“Huh?!?” She looked back up at him in bewilderment both at the comment and at the voice she heard. Her cheeks burned a light red. “Did someone knocked out the Kentarou I knew before and replaced him with this one or are you drunk?”
“Hmmm…” Kentarou rested his chin on the headrest. “I’m a little tipsy, but I can still think pretty clearly. Didn’t drink as much as Shion.”
So…he’s not denying what he said? So he thinks I’m cute? Her mind raced as she stared wide-eyed at the bandit sitting across from her, her cheeks getting hotter. Wait a second…maybe he’s just joking with me. Yeah…that has to be it.
“You’re talking like Shion, you know.” Mentioning Shion made her remember something. “By the way, where is he? Weren’t you with him? And not that I don’t mind you coming in here…but why did you come in here and not go and talk to Sakana?”
His smile reappeared again, this time, in a different fashion. His eyes were mesmerizing, playful. “What, you’ve never been hit on before, neko-chan?”
She turned beet red, her emotions beginning to turn to frustration. “Yes I have, many times! And why aren’t you answering my questions?”
Her answer was an outright lie, having lived isolated with Odin the past two years except for general errands in Lilandre and the occasional straggler who stayed at their temple for a day or two. Much of her travel around the world happened when she was still a child, so nobody paid much attention to her except for the old women with grandchildren of their own. Not once had a man laid their eyes upon her in…that way.
Seeing through the lie and having fun with his teasing, Kentarou sighed. If he continued any longer with this, she would start to get angry. “Geez…full of questions… Shion’s getting plastered and hooking up with some chick down at the bar right now, so don’t be surprised if he’s not going to be here for much of tonight. And there’s no way in hell will I take that chance and stay in our room while he’s screwing someone.” He noted her slight flinch at his flagrant mention of sex and reminded himself that he was in front of a young woman who had no idea how the world ran. And that she was a woman. “So I got bored and left him there talking to her. Would’ve talked to Sakana, but she looked like she was concentrating on her magic so I didn’t want to bother her. That’s why I’m here.”
Rydia contemplated on each answer, nodding to herself at each piece. It sounded reasonable enough.
“Why don’t you take a look around town? We’re only going to be here for the night,” she suggested thought she really didn’t mind his company.
“I’ve already been here before, remember?” he stated the obvious. “Besides, I don’t want to cause any trouble and I’m kinda worried about you and Sakana being here by yourselves, even though this is a place with people you know. Those guys from this afternoon had been following me and Shion around for most of the evening. Better if I stay in here and keep out of their way and keep an eye on you two at the same time.”
Rydia rolled her eyes. “You know that we can more than take care of those two if they wanted to attack us. Besides, what about Shion?”
“He can take care of himself,” he repeated and chuckled. “I actually feel sorry for those idiots thinking that he’s more vulnerable when he’s drunk.”
Rydia smiled at his humor, watching him readjust his position on the chair. Her paranoia dying down, knowing that he was aware of what he was doing, she began to see something different about the man who was ordered to protect her. Actually, this was the first time that she actually talked to him in a semi-serious discussion. Even though a bit tipsy, he held this air that was much different than the Kentarou she had come to know – an air that was similar to the times she was with him on the klynx. The other Kentarou was more curt, direct, and a bit stoic in a way. Even when Shion was around, he still held that wall – that mask. The Kentarou she was seeing how was perhaps what he really was like. And…she liked it.
Come to think of it, Sakana is like that, too.
“Now what’re you looking at, neko-chan?” he asked with an unnerving smirk on his face. “Somethin’ about me that’s interesting to look at?”
Well, her acquired nickname and his constant teasing hadn’t changed at all to say the least.
Not wanting to get his teasing get the better of her, she smiled at him. “I was just thinking that this is actually the first time I’ve talked to you.” The odd, playful, mesmerizing look was returning again, making her falter in her next set of words. “Um…just you and me…I mean.”
The look disappeared and it made Rydia feel a bit better. She had never been stared at like the way Kentarou was doing before. It made her heart pound and fast, just like the time he held her in his arms after moving her out of the Behemoth’s way not so long ago.
What’s gotten into me? I’ve never been like this before.
Or maybe she just never noticed that he always looked at her like that. Shion did say to her that Kentarou acted differently when she interacted with him, that it was a subtle difference that only he could see.
“That’s true, huh,” Kentarou agreed. “Most of the time Sakana was around, huh?”
That’s probably because she wanted us to keep from arguing.
“You talk to her a lot…don’t you?” she asked, curious.
“Mmm…about random things mainly. Plus, she’s not as hostile as you are.”
This caused her cheeks to burn red again. “I’m not hostile…just hard to talk to.”
After having been isolated from much of the world for two years for intense training, it makes it hard to get reacquainted with socialization. Especially since she didn’t know what to do next.
Maybe that scroll at home can help me with something…or at least guide me to where I have to go.
Her sky magic ended as soon as she heard Kentarou’s knock next door. The sky faerie opened her eyes, startled at the noise, but she soon relaxed as she heard the younger woman’s answer through the wall next to her.
At least she sounds all right, Sakana thought with a smile. Even if it wasn’t her that Rydia couldn’t speak about to her current problems, Sakana was happy that the young sorceress would talk to someone. After helping out with the same tasks at the inn they were staying at, Rydia had gone up directly to her room without a word. She had been unusually quiet ever since Kentarou’s brush in the afternoon about something that she didn’t want to talk about. It worried her, and she wanted to approach the subject while Kentarou and Shion had left after their chores were done, but Sakana really didn’t know what to do. It was hard to ask her directly, as she had never had much contact with other people until now, and Sakana was never good in forming the right words to ask.
She would have never thought that Kentarou would be the person to make Rydia open up, if just a little bit.
With her acute hearing, Sakana heard nearly every word of their conversation. Their questions, their answers, their thoughts…and his laughter.
Kentarou never laughed that way with her, but then again they never talked much about things that would make him laugh.
She frowned at the strange thought that brought up the malevolent emotion inside of her. Sakana took a deep breath to clear her mind. You’re taking things a bit overboard, Sakana. There’s nothing to feel odd about when Kentarou’s talking to Rydia. Plus…it would be impossible for mortal and fae to interact in that way anyway.
Oh? Do you really think so?
Her muscles stiffened at the voice, her so called “conscience”.
The voice chucked sinisterly. Oh, why so cold my dear Sakana?
Sakana deliberately ignored the voice, closing her eyes. Inside, she could feel as if the voice (or voices) was smiling at her attempt.
Ignoring us, hm? A pause. Very well. But you won’t be able to deny it any longer, fae. Soon, you will come to realize…
The next two phrases were whispered into her, sending a chill down her spine.
You love him. And you won’t let her take him.
Before Raiden could answer Schala’s question, the hiss of the seal interrupted their conversation. Raiden’s eyes narrowed. He was given an unlimited timeframe for this assignment. However, he could sense Ryuuho’s presence gazing at him on the other side.
The girl is moving, Ryuuho’s voice reverberated in his head. You will have to assist Zaiken in this task.
The demon’s eyes narrowed further. Something within him was warning him of something, wanting to reach out and scream at him. What was about this girl they were following, besides being the “key” to their plan? Why was it that he was beginning to feel more resistance to this task?
“…Raiden?” Schala asked the demon, her emerald eyes beginning to fade with the hope that she could bring her friend back to his senses – to remember what he once was and what promises he had wanted to fulfill.
Whatever reasons that allowed her captors to reunite with Raiden was both a blessing and a curse. She had yet to tell the location of her half of the jewel and she had the feeling that the girl she desperately had to protect was in danger. She could feel – even in this isolated room covered in seals that suppressed her powers – that the girl’s powers were growing. It was only a matter of time until the girl would face the same fate as she would.
The seal was down. It would be one of the few chances for Schala to communicate with Rydia, to warn her. So, focusing on what little power she had left that was not suppressed by the other seals, she sent the young sorceress her warning:
It was on a new hunt. The creature with human features couldn’t be any more ecstatic. Its last victim it hunted down was pathetic, weak, and not worth the time to kill. The human victim only lasted a few seconds before it succumbed to the creature’s advance, sliced in half by its sharp claws. The creature was disappointed in its prey at how unskilled the human was using its weapon and how fear completely enshrouded him; the creature almost felt sorry for its prey. But it always remembered the treatment it received by humans before until its new master came into light. The dark haired, fair-skinned man wielded an incredibly destructive power – one that the creature with human features was terrified of if the man ever used it against it. So far, though, the man – human yet not – treated the creature well. If anything, the creature would risk its life to protect its master, a man who like it was outcast from society for being different.
The new pretty that its master commanded to trail sounded very unusual. Even though it could not speak the common tongue, it could still understand it thanks to the teachings of its master. It was warned to not kill the girl but to just scare her. Something lay masked underneath the master’s crimson eyes that the creature could not comprehend but it was nothing of importance. All that the creature wanted was to finish its mission, no matter how interesting and delightful it was, and receive its master’s praise.
Still, Zaiken could not help but wonder just how precious yet powerful the sorceress was said to be…
~~~Sefia Temple, a week later ~~~
“Ah, it’s so good to be back!”
Rydia literally hopped off of the klynx’s back, running up the stone steps of the temple and disappeared inside.
Kentarou resisted the urge to make another weary yet witty comment as he and the others settled their klynxes down and began to bring down the supplies off of the animals’ backs. Rydia had told them that it would only take less than a day to travel up the mountain that led to her home, yet a blizzard bit through the small town of Lilandre and they were delayed by a week. What had been unusual was that strong blizzards were rare to occur in a town that typically experienced mild weather and sunshine all year long. Many of the locals feared disaster as parts of the town were covered in a blanket of snow, and Rydia herself remained quiet about the sudden weather change. Kentarou had the feeling that the sorceress had a slight idea what was going on, but neither he nor the others pressed on the matter. Kentarou himself silently thanked Hyne that they were given a period of rest.
“Whoa, this place is huge,” Shion whistled as he hoisted his pack over his shoulder and gently tugged at the klynx’s reins for it to follow. “Just Rydia lived in this big place?”
“Her and her caretaker, Lord Odin,” Sakana softly corrected.
Kentarou finally managed to take a good look around the temple as he, Shion, and Sakana climbed up the stone steps. He didn’t quite know the reason why, but he felt that he had been in his place before.
Hey, Ken-nii, look how big this is!!
His memories were interrupted as they reached the entrance and Rydia came running out to aid them.
“Sorry, I had to open some doors and windows to make more room,” she told them as she hoisted up a bag that looked twice her size in width. Only the top of her head peeked out. “The hallways are pretty small.”
“So only you and your teacher lived here?” Shion asked.
“…Pretty much.” Rydia managed to balance herself as she straightened her back. “Once in a while Master Odin would bring an injured person here or we’d let the travelers stay here if they got lost.”
“So how did you meet Blank?” Kentarou wondered out loud. The image of a young girl with eyes just like him with short, chopped black hair running in and out of the temple hallways laughing crossed his mind. He inwardly frowned at himself. This was an old, unusual, and somewhat forgotten memory of someone he knew. …Gally?
“Mmm…I think he met Master Odin in Lilandre,” Rydia replied as they entered further into the temple until the hallway expanded to a large square garden.
The outside of the temple looked fairly plain with little color beyond a dirty white and the green vines that wrapped around its pillars. The pillars themselves showed their battle against the elements, including the recent blizzard. The hallways were indeed as narrow as Rydia had warned. It was also very dim but that was probably due to the fact that it had been abandoned for two months. Paper lanterns hung on the side walls with an opening at its top to insert a candle. The walls themselves were bare oak. Yet despite the lack of color, the outdoor garden completely contrasted its enclosed overall look. Although snow littered the ground and covered some plants and flowers like icing, the garden itself seemed to be alive and well – vibrating with a variety of colors.
“It’s so beautiful here…” Sakana murmured in awe.
“Haha…well, it was my only hobby when Master Odin didn’t want me to do anything else.” Rydia replied sheepishly. “I’m surprised that it’s still okay.”
She shifted her weight a little so that she could gesture with her head at the general direction of the other building connected across from the square garden. “Um…the rooms where you can sleep at are over there. You can choose whichever one you want except for the one on the far right corner. That’s mine. And the one with red sliding doors is Master Odin’s library. The futons and blankets are rolled in the closets of each room except for the library, since there’s pretty much no room for a futon to lie on.”
She shifted again, turning to her right and nearly losing her balance at the weight of items in her arms but she quickly steadied herself.
“This is the food, right?” she asked to nobody in particular. “I’m going to put these in the kitchen.”
“Oi, neko-chan, you need help with that?” Kentarou offered as he and the others doubted that Rydia would be able to make it there without spilling the contents. Kentarou in particular was remembering the time when they first met, having run into her with a similar kind of supplies that she was carrying now.
“No, I’ll be fine! You guys go ahead and rest,” Rydia replied as her small frame began to get smaller as she continued to walk down one hallway, presumably leading to the kitchen.
Noticing the amused look on Shion’s face, Kentarou blew a breath of frustration as he dropped his bag on the wooden floor and chased after the petite sorceress. He grabbed about half of the load she was carrying in one arm and slung it over his shoulder with ease.
“Hey! I told you that I –“ Rydia began to protest.
“And walk into the wall? No, I’d rather not try to pull you out of the wall, thank you,” he cut her off.
“It’s my house, amber eyes. I know where I’m going.”
“Can’t you let me be nice for once and stop complaining?”
“Since when were you ever ‘nice’?”
The two continued to bicker as they disappeared around the corner while Shion and Sakana watched. Shion chuckled quietly to himself in amusement and the sky faerie shook her head and sighed.
“Gee, those two never stop, do they?” he asked her.
“Mmhm,” Sakana agreed with a small smile on her face.
A keen observer, Shion noted that there was something odd about the smile but he decided against asking. He stepped down from the walkway, making an imprint on the freshly fallen snow.
“Let’s get those rooms now, shall we?”
“…What about Kentarou’s things?”
“Ah, just leave them. He’ll get them later.”
Rydia slid open the door to her master’s library as quietly as possible, feeling like she was invading his privacy even though he had passed away what felt like years ago. She felt like a little girl again and imagined that she could hear Odin chuckle at her shy curiosity behind her and pushed her forward into the room where he would tell her the stories of legend and the magical power that Hyne possessed when fighting against the demons of Morcadia. As Rydia got older, Odin would take out the scrolls that he had in his collection for her to read when training was impossible to do at night or when the weather wasn’t cooperating. It was one scroll in a chest hidden in the floor of his library he forbid to give her that might pertain to the knowledge she needed.
Rydia stepped into this room, looking around to make sure no one was there. Of course, nobody was inside; the temple had been uninhabited for two months. Still, Rydia couldn’t help but be a bit paranoid when it came to total darkness in such a large place as her home. She quickly whispered a fire spell into the lantern she held and it burned more brightly. She set it on the floor and began her search. Her memory was vague when it came to the actual location of the chest. She only saw it once a long time ago when Odin told her to not look at it, so the sorceress had to resort to lightly knock on the wooden floor and listen for a hollow sound. It was a good thing that the others weren’t nearby. She could sense that they were already curious as to why they had come back to her home and being on her hands and knees tapping on the floor of her master’s library made it all the more odd.
Sakana had resorted to her sky “drawing” in her room, quietly focusing on her energy to coordinate with the other sky fae all across the world. It was a routine that everyone was familiar with by now (when Shion had seen her do it for the first time, he was in total astonishment at the sight) and it usually was not best to distract the fae from her work.
Shion and Kentarou once again came to drinking, this time with her deceased master’s stash of sake, and reminisced the times they shared together as children. Once in a while, Rydia would join in their recanting of memories and listen to them but sometimes the end result happened when she found herself at the center of attention for interrogation. That Rydia didn’t like, being asked about her past as she was a private person when it came to personal questions.
Plus, right now, she had a more important task to do.
Her search finally fell through as she heard the echo of an empty space within the floorboards. She quickly tapped a board and flipped it upright, revealing a small handle that she could pull up. With all her strength, Rydia lifted the hatch and just below her revealed the ancient chest that possibly held all of her answers. The chest itself was covered in a thick layer of dust but as Rydia wiped a portion of its top clean, it revealed an ancient script engraved in silver that the sorceress couldn’t understand. Deciding to ignore whatever its words meant, she snapped the rusted lock that kept the chest closed and coughed at the dust filling her lungs as she opened its contents.
Man, this thing must have been in here for a long time, she thought to herself. Inside lay one large scroll that was twice the size of her arm. She frowned, trying to figure out how to get the massive object out.
“Hope it’s not heavy…” she muttered, grabbing each end and pulled.
It didn’t budge.
Once again Rydia frowned, pursing her lips together in frustration. She could carry at least ten large bags of random items, which was rather amazing for someone as small as her, and sometimes – if she was up to it – a few logs for firewood. Lifting up a single, thick scroll shouldn’t be that hard, should it? She tried lifting again. It still didn’t move. The sorceress let go, crossing her arms as she glared at the inanimate object. Surly the reason why Odin didn’t allow her to see this scroll was because she couldn’t lift the huge thing.
Although Rydia was a sorceress, she didn’t like to use her magic when it came to simple tasks like lifting a heavy object. She contemplated on the option, though, as she continued to stare at the scroll. After a few minutes, she sighed.
“I guess I better…”
She closed her eyes and concentrated, whispering the words as the scroll wriggled its way out of its tomb. It hovered in front of her as she opened her eyes and the sorceress quickly directed it to land next to her before she lost her concentration. The large scroll landed with a heavy thud, sending up more dust that had collected on the floor.
Rydia precariously untied the knot that held the scroll bound tightly together and it rolled out a large piece as if wanting to unveil its contents to its reader. The sorceress peered over its script, which luckily was in a language that she could understand. She spoke the first few words out loud.
“Feuille Pinnacle, where the summoned find a home…”
Before she could finish the sentence, the flame in her lantern flickered and her body stiffened; she slowly looked up to catch a glimpse of a dark, blood-stained claw waiting to catch its prize before she screamed.
Kentarou had finally given up starting a fire by hand and resorted to what little magic he allowed himself to use, even if it was in front of his best friend who had known him since childhood. In less than a second, the damp firewood they gathered from the back of the temple burst brightly in its orange-red glow and Shion couldn’t help but let out a low whistle.
“Still amazes me how you can still do that, you know,” Shion commented, pouring a cup of the clear alcohol and handed it to his friend before pouring one for himself. “You rarely use your magic.”
“Bah,” Kentarou scoffed as he accepted the porcelain cup and sat down. “The wood’s useless if it’s wet.”
“Hmmm…” Shion murmured in thought, taking a sip of the sake. “So how’d it go when you asked her?”
“Don’t ‘huh’ me. You never told me what happened when you went to go talk to her when we first got in Lilandre.”
Kentarou stared into his reflection in the liquid, contemplating his answer. “…Nothing much, really.”
At this, Shion arched a curious eyebrow and a faint smirk flitted across his lips. “Oh? Didn’t look like ‘nothing much’ when you walked out of her room the next day.”
“I didn’t do anything to her, idiot,” Kentarou growled in annoyance as he decided the gulp down the cup’s contents. “You know I’m not like you.”
Shion’s smirk widened. Although his friend was often direct, he was courteous when it came to women. It was something that had been ingrained in Kentarou long before he joined Blank’s troupe, and it hadn’t faded in the passage of time. Shion poured another drink, patiently waiting for him to continue.
“We just…talked,” Kentarou let out an amused snort. “Y’know what she said about Melbane? Thought they were cool, learnin’ all those demon spells and stuff.” He paused. “…Never thought I’d hear that from her.”
Shion watched the contemplative look on his friend’s face – an emotion that resembled a mixture of relief and appreciation. So he’s finally getting it, huh?
“So what are you going to do?”
Kentarou absentmindedly smiled. “See to the end of this, ‘course. I don’t think Rydia’s got much information on who’s after her…or where to go for that matter. It’s probably why she led us back to her home. Maybe forgot something when she left before.”
Shion silently nodded in agreement. During the week stuck in Lilandre from the storm, Sakana informed the two about what she knew that caused Rydia to leave her home in the first place, instigated by the death of her guardian, teacher, and second father that caused her to start her journey and stumble upon the sky faerie’s home. Although Shion had no real attachments to aid the young sorceress, he wanted to help as much as he could. He had only known Rydia for barely three weeks but it was enough for him to get a sense of what danger the girl was in and how dear she was becoming to Kentarou. He could see the subtle nuances that Rydia had when around his friend even during their petty arguments. If anything, she seemed to enjoy his company even during times when she wanted to be left alone. The sorceress was naïve in her feelings and Shion understood why his friend was hesitant to do anything, even subconsciously forcing himself to believe that he didn’t like her.
And knowing how much Kentarou valued his family traditions, Shion dared to think that Kentarou loved her.
The rogue smiled at the thought. To even someone like him, the word “love” existed somewhere in him. After all the stuff that his friend had gone through, losing the life and family he had once considered for granted after his village burned down, Shion wanted to at least have Kentarou experience happiness.
Their quiet reverie was broken when they heard a familiar scream echo amongst the trees.
She had been trying to concentrate on decorating the night sky but as her “conscious’” words returned, Sakana blew a sigh of frustration and opened her eyes.
You love him. And you won’t let her take him.
She frowned at remembering those words. Whoever this voice, or those voices, was they definitely wanted something from her. Whatever this “something” was, Sakana had a feeling that it involved Rydia somehow. The sorceress was becoming very much like a younger sister to her and it pained the sky faerie to see her hiding whatever troubles she was experiencing internally though these past few weeks have been relatively peaceful while traveling.
Yet during these few weeks, Sakana saw that Rydia had been finding some solace in Kentarou. The bandit didn’t seem to mind at all, as if he welcomed Rydia’s presence. Maybe it was because Sakana had told him and Shion or maybe it was because of something that she couldn’t yet understand. And although Sakana was happy that Rydia was pushing whatever doubts and dangers she had, she was also saddened at the fact that Rydia couldn’t tell her.
Maybe that was the source of the strange feeling she was having whenever she saw Rydia and Kentarou together. It wasn’t what her “conscious” called love. It wasn’t what her sister Viola called love. It was…an empty feeling. It was something she had felt when she first decided to join Rydia on her journey and leave her clan behind.
Regret. Sadness. Solitude.
A scream pierced through her thoughts and Sakana swiftly headed for the door, all of a sudden aware of a very strong and dark aura surrounding the temple.
Rydia instinctively ducked as the creature’s left arm shot out at her, aiming for her head. She fumbled through the sleeves of her kimono to grab a dagger, only to raise her arms up to block the creature’s right hand from hitting her face. The power of its punch sent shockwaves through her body as she few through the paper-thin doors of the library room into the snow filled ground that led to the forest. Rydia gasped for air as she clenched her teeth to stifle the pain at her shattered right arm, watching with her mismatched eyes the large shadow that emerged from the wreckage.
The creature stood at least eight feet tall, packed with muscle and the blood of its former victims on its ragged clothes. Its skin was black like coal, its claws even darker. A light blue mane decorated its head, falling passed its waist in tangled, sporadic directions. The creature had a human stature, standing upright on its two legs barefoot and what remains of its tattered shirt revealed numerous scars decorated and engraved on its chest and arms. Yet what humanity it had left as soon as Rydia peered at its amber eyes, crazed with psychotic delight. Its feral grin showed the canine teeth hidden inside and the creature let out a low chuckle deep in its throat as it stared back at her.
What the heck is that…monster? Rydia wondered in horror as her breathing returned to normal. Her right arm, once shattered at the creature’s devastating power, rose now that it was repaired. Her fingers slipped out a few more daggers and she fanned them out in her hand, eyes ready for its next attack. It was almost impossible to cast a spell – even with her vast knowledge – because they took some time no matter how fast she could cast one. It would be only a few seconds to cast one, but Rydia guessed it was enough time for the creature not far in front of her to move and not enough time for her to react.
It was just amazing to her that the creature concealed such a strong aura from her or from the others, especially Sakana, until the very last second of attack.
“Come on,” she whispered more to herself than to her unknown assailant. The grip on her weapons tightened.
As if the creature had heard her from its distance, it took one step before blurring out of her vision only to reappear just a few feet in front of her. Out of an instinctive reaction, Rydia threw her weapons in her right hand, keeping the one in her left as a precaution as the creature easily dodged the projectiles and came in closer. Not wanting to repeat her mistake the last time she ducked underneath its arm to avoid a first punch, she pivoted her left foot to the right and held up her dagger with both hands as she barely avoided its second punch by a hair’s breath. Rydia watched in a rush of adrenaline as the few stray strands of her hair fell in the way of his second punch, splitting away from the main strands.
Without thinking, Rydia dug her dagger into the trailing end of his other arm – a spray of red spewing out of the wound – before rolling away from the creature as fast as she could and stood upright again, breathing quickly. The recognition of pain finally triggered her brain as she became aware that the torn shreds of her obi were stained with blood. Her blood. Before she could even think of casting a healing spell of some sort, the creature’s dark hand wrapped tightly around her throat and lifted her petite frame slightly off the ground. Fighting to breathe and frantically thinking of a spell to get his hand off of her throat, Rydia tried to voice out words and grimaced in pain as the creature’s hand tightened slightly around her slim throat. Its feral grin was still plastered on its maniacal human-like face as Rydia’s vision began to blur and darken when her ears vaguely picked up on a familiar voice.
In an instant she felt the air rush back to her lungs and her feet touched solid ground again. The sorceress coughed, gasping for more air as the creature’s scream echoed in the night and rung in her ears. Her mismatched eyes focused on the white jacket Kentarou wore in front of her and a severed black hand lying on the ground not far off from them.
A small hand fell on her shoulder. “Rydia, are you okay?”
She turned her head to greet the concerned, pupil-less eyes of Sakana. “…Sakana?”
The sky faerie smiled a little in relief, glancing down quickly at the torn shreds of her obi belt and relieved to find that the wounds had healed themselves. Her smile faded as her eyes focused back to their enemy, still screaming from the pain of losing a hand. Rydia followed suit.
“Th’ hell is that?” Shion muttered, standing next to her with his sword drawn. It looked similar to Kentarou’s katana in form but shorter in length.
“I don’t know…” Rydia murmured with her voice still a bit hoarse.
Before any of them could continue or make another move, they felt another strong aura press down on them. The trees and ground seemed to rumble at its power, power that surrounded the writhing creature in front of them in a blue hue and forced it to disappear to wherever it came from. And just for a second, Rydia could see the shadow of a demon with blue eyes pass by them and glance at her before it and the mysterious creature left no trace of ever being there save for a severed hand.
Rydia’s heart froze. She knew who those eyes belonged to.
I will see you next time, little one.
“Just what the hell was that now?” Shion shouted as he allowed himself to breathe. It was the first time he had ever felt a strong aura as that.
“Whoever that was, it took that creature away,” Sakana replied to calm him down.
He was waiting for me to come back here?
“But Kentarou, how did you get here so fast?” Sakana asked.
Waiting to test me again? Or…kill me?
Kentarou wiped the blood of his katana in one quick flick of his wrist.
“Adrenaline rush, I guess,” he murmured as he sheathed his sword away.
…Had he been following me all this time?
Shion remained silent, knowing better as Sakana continued to ask. “But I was closer to this place…”
Have I been endangering everyone’s safety?
Kentarou decided to ignore Sakana’s question as he walked over to Rydia, kneeling down and putting a hand on her shoulder. Her shoulders flinched at his touch and she seemed to be startled out of her thoughts.
“Oi, neko-chan, are you okay?” he asked her.
She gazed into his intense stare, uncertain of what to say, before she managed to give him a small smile.
“Yeah…I think so,” she said to reassure her friends as she stood up. “Just…um, a little surprised that’s all.”
The three exchanged wary glances at each other, which she didn’t leave unnoticed, and Sakana behind her gently squeezed the shoulder that did not share Kentarou’s hand.
“Are you sure, Rydia?” Sakana repeated.
The feeling that she was beginning to be treated like a child unnerved her, even though she knew that Sakana was just asking out of concern. Rydia knew that she wasn’t telling them everything – even she didn’t know everything – and she knew that she was the youngest out of their group, but they knew that she was capable of taking care of herself.
“I’m fine!” she managed a light laugh. “Gee, I didn’t think that there would be anybody hiding here. Now I have to fix Master Odin’s door so that wind doesn’t blow all those scrolls away…”
“Rydia.” She stopped her rambling, frozen in place at just hearing the sounder of her name fall from his lips. Now she definitely knew that she had heard Kentarou shout her name earlier. Her name, not “neko-chan”. It was…an interesting roll of syllables coming from his tongue, and hearing her name from him seemed to have a much more commanding impact on her than anything else.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” she whispered in a barely audible voice. “I don’t know what that thing was or why it was after me. So please…don’t ask me because I haven’t the slightest idea myself other than that I know that whoever’s behind this wants me.”
“But we can help you, Rydia, that’s why we’re with you in the first place,” Sakana tried to reason.
I don’t want you guys to get involved…not when a man like him is after me…Rydia whispered inwardly to herself as she looked back up at them – the people who have accompanied her these past two months – with her best smile, her mind made up.
“Well, I’m tired all of a sudden,” she said, shrugging off Sakana’s hand and Shion and Kentarou’s stares. “So I’m going to sleep.”
They watched her go, watching her stretch her arms high in the air, before Kentarou remembered something.
“Hey, what about your master’s door, neko-chan?” he called out.
She paused at the corner, wishing in her heart that he would say her name in the same manner as he did before. She turned around, hands on her hips, smiling triumphantly at him.
“You’re a guy, why don’t you and Shion fix it?”
Kentarou’s jaw hung open as Shion laughed and Sakana shook her head and smiled. Shion bowed at the sorceress as he contained his laughter with a playful smile.
“As you wish, Miss Rydia,” he told her. “Leave it to me to get this lazy bum to work.”
“Hey! You’re the lazy one, jackass,” Kentarou retorted.
His friend only put him in a headlock, murmuring some words of advice that Rydia could only make a word or two out. Something about not getting women angry too much. She looked to see Sakana opening her mouth to say something to her, but Rydia merely shook her head and smiled to reassure her friend before she turned and headed to her room.
Feuille Pinnacle, the lost village where the summoners of legend came from. It was her next destination, but Rydia planned to go through this alone.
Rydia tied the knot of her satchel filled with the things she needed and double checked her daggers that Kirika had given her in her new traveling kimono before she took a small peek out of her window. She could see nobody near where she was, but she could hear Kentarou and Shion’s voices along with the consistent hammering of their repairs and she could feel Sakana working on her sky magic again. A slice of guilt sunk deep within her heart as she smiled sadly to herself at what she was going to do. Yet she had to do this, for their safety.
Rydia walked back into the middle of her room and closed her eyes, whispering a grand scale Sleep spell so that her small makeshift “family” would not make out her intentions.
“Damn, the bastard really pummeled this thing,” Kentarou commented with a piece of cloth in between his teeth as he tied the two pieces of wood together to keep the side frame of the door stable.
“Hah, that thing was damn ugly, though,” Shion replied, finishing up with his portion of the sliding door. “I’m surprised you were able to slice that hunk of meat’s hand off ‘cause it looked so bulky.”
“I think I just made it in time,” Kentarou whispered. He slowed down his work, lost in thought. “Never thought that I’d be using my magic again.” A pause and a frown appeared on his face. “Shion…you really think I can help her?”
He heard Shion sigh. “Look, Kentarou, do whatever you think is right. If you really want to go that far with her…”
Kentarou, trying to listen intently at his best friend’s words, looked up suddenly from his work as he felt the familiar pressure of her magic invade his senses. He caught his friend just before he hit the floor and felt Sakana’s night magic fade.
Damn, why the hell is she casting a Sleep spell? He wondered to himself. It only took him a moment to realize her intent. Kentarou gently set Shion on the floor and got up to find her.
Rydia did know something, and Kentarou was determined to not let her go without notice.
Rydia cautiously slid the back door to her room open and poked her head out to look around even though she knew that her spell had worked. She couldn’t help but still feel a little bit paranoid, though, which was why she decided to take her back door instead of the front one. Not only that, she was closer to the forest this way.
As she headed out to meld with the trees, his voice stopped her:
“And just where do you think you’re going?”
Rydia froze, surprised and filled with fear at the same time. Hesitantly, slowly, she turned around.
Kentarou watched her, her eyes shocked. Of course she was surprised. Here was a sorceress, apprentice to a famous sorcerer from the legendary village of summoners, well-versed in an amplitude of spells, and she couldn’t keep a Melbane down. However, Rydia didn’t know how much magic he knew or his basic understanding of that field since he never used those age old spells until now. She didn’t know that he had some resistance to certain spells such as Sleep.
The bandit walked towards her, never taking his eyes off of her, hands in his pockets. A bungle of questions, emotions, and ingrained reactions washed over his mind. Yet there was mainly one thing that he knew he wanted to do and why.
He loved her. And he wanted to protect her.
Inwardly, Kentarou laughed at himself at his conclusion. The two hadn’t known each other for more than two months and he already discovered that he loved her, if that emotion ever existed. Yet it was something that he knew, something that was impossible to describe in words.
He watched her eyes frantically dart back and forth as he approached her, and as she decided to try to run away from him, he instinctively grabbed her arm.
“Let me go,” Rydia said and tried to pull away.
“I won’t until you tell me where you’re going and why you’re doing this,” he replied, tugging back. His grip wasn’t strong enough to hurt her but it was enough for her to not run anywhere. “You know something don’t you? Even if it’s a small, tiny detail, you know who’s trailing you, don’t you?”
As she continued to shake her head, squeezing her eyes shut, Kentarou pulled her a little closer, wanting her to look at him in the eye.
“Rydia, look at me!”
The sorceress ceased struggling from his grip at the sound of her name called from his lips, slowly looking back up with tears in her eyes. And for a second, Kentarou’s determination faltered, awed by the beauty and sadness that he could see in those mismatched eyes of hers.
Rydia, too, looked into his amber eyes, wondering to herself if she would ever be able to see those unique, playful yet honest eyes in anyone else again. Over the past few weeks, the two have grown closer – even if half of that time was pretty much arguing – but she noticed that he had a different air around him every time they talked. It was frustrating to understand him, but his changing moods attracted her oddly enough.
A strange feeling that she couldn’t quite decipher settled in the pit of her stomach and her heart beat faster.
“Please, just let me go,” she whispered, pleaded.
Tears. They were something that Kentarou couldn’t stand, especially hers.
Without much thought, he pulled her towards him until their lips met. She stood there stunned, eyes wide, her body wrapped protectively in his arms. The sensation was foreign to her, and she wasn’t quite sure how to react. Then as he pulled away, vaguely aware of the heat rushing to her cheeks, she wished that he didn’t.
Their noses lightly touched, and she could see that he was about to say something. The words never came to him, though, as some sort of unknown magic overcame him. Rydia gasped in panic, wondering if this was the demon’s doing, as she caught the brunt of his weight. It was then she noticed a soft glow pulsating beneath her clothing where her amulet lay around her neck.
She set Kentarou down, his head nestled at the nape of her neck, sleeping deeply. She took out her amulet, watching its glow beat to a stop and looked back at Kentarou.
It did this? she wondered. Because he had a resistance it made a stronger Sleep spell?
Biting her lower lip, Rydia gently set Kentarou on the ground. Her fingers brushed across the lips that kissed hers and she brought those fingers back to her own. Her heart continued to pound loudly in her ears as she closed her eyes, letting a teardrop fall.
Why are you doing this??
Rydia, look at me!
He called me by my name…
The sorceress – reluctant and determined to follow her task – bent down and whispered into his ear: “I’m sorry.”
Then she stood up, got her things, and disappeared into the night.
Author’s notes: Sorry for the long wait! This chapter was a very difficult chapter to complete, and I was again tempted to cut this off and continue a second part. However, this chapter is really the climax of this story, where things take a turn to a different direction and the plot deepens further along with its twists and turns that you might have discovered while reading all the way through. If you haven’t, well, then these twists will soon come in the chapters to follow.
And I think that this is my longest chapter to date. It’s 32 pages on Word!!