Gokujou Naruto

Dream of the Awakening
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This is for "Gundam Wing," not for Naruto...but I don't have anywhere to put it.

Author’s note, 2005: I started this on April 16, 2001. That’s four years ago...this was the first fan fiction I’ve ever written. Please note that this is for a series I no longer follow...I’m not gonna update this. I just wanted to archive it ‘cause...well, I don’t have a copy of it anymore.


That, and I thought it’d be fun to show people a fiction of mine from four and a half years ago. Compare and contrast, if you so choose. ^_^


This was taken directly from the forum I originally posted it in...without the wonderful ladies I met there, I probably wouldn’t have gotten as interested in writing—especially not fan fiction. But! I don’t wanna reread this...I cringe every time I try...so there are probably quite a few “bad” things I need to fix. I’m just not gonna do it...I’d like to have a record of what my writing was like as a freshman (or 8th grader? I forgot, now...).


From here down, everything was written by a 14 or 15 year old me. ^_^ be amused.




Warnings: Can I keep this short for once? Probably not. Shonen ai . . . very, very little. Blink and you'll miss it. *Grins* Anyway, shonen ai for 1+2/2+1, 3+4/4+3. Also, a bit of 2+5, but that's got something to do with mind controll. OOC, AU, been told it's 'creepy, dark, horror' etc. Make your own judgements. *Grins*

"Welcome to my house; enter freely and of your own will."

Disclaimer: GW and Ocarina of Time are NOT mine. They belong to other people who are not me. *sighs* Unfortunetly they're not mine, no mater what I dream . . . No money is being made and no lasting damage has been done. They'll be returned relatively unharmed, don't worry. *adds hastily*

Dream of the Awakening
Part 1

The darkness stretched out forever, in the cavern. It was the place no light could penetrate, for the walls were so thick and old. Looking past the mold and granite, there was little else to see. Lacking the powerful stench associated with caves, the smell of loam and lichen, it seemed surreal, as if the cavern indeed wasn’t there at all, but simply a complex illusion, bending the absent light to form the jagged edges of the rock. Unclouded by odor of any sort, the air was crisp with a hint of damp beneath the chill air. The temperature varied dramatically with that of the outside weather, the spring air was heavily weighted with ocean spray, never absent on the small island of Okinawa.

Centuries ago, the island had served as a base for the United States Military, a military long forgotten by the present day and age. The US had been conquered little more than a century before, but the base itself had been left to the natives for a century longer. When the nation was still strong, and Okinawa still used as a base, firearms had been prohibited-despite the army’s presence, or perhaps because of it. There was no such law now, and the island was left more or less to its native inhabitants.

Without the US military amongst the natives, much of the federal part of the island had been deserted, the living quarters and main building both. There were still traces of the Americans’ presence, with a few old signs written in English-a language only a few still spoke in Okinawa. The island had reverted more or less to its original state, after the army had left; many of the major businesses there had also deserted, taking with them the tourists who supplied much of the income.

The homes were of the traditional Japanese style, with Shi-shi lions guarding the gates and flat roofs to protect the building from the dangerous typhoons. The trees were likewise styled, rounded off against the weather. The disserted base was much smaller without the foreigners; the hotels and apartment complexes they’d used were mostly empty, now a shell of what had once been.

That is, until OZ had set up base in the midst of the ruin, sending in soldiers and repairmen to fix the place up adequately enough to house important members of the army. The soldiers had hired the natives to help with the repairs, getting their advise as to how they could best use the land to their advantage, and earn their trust by paying high wages. The natives again saw changes on their small island; the army had brought back a few of the businesses that had brought previous wealth upon them. After months of repairs, the base was restored. With that restoration came the remainder of the OZ army that’d be staying on the island.

Business flourished, and the cavern was forgotten. For a time, that is.

Far off in the distance, five figures climbed a steep hill, walking in single file. There was little conversation going on between them, and the silence of the early morning seemed to swallow all sound. Upon reaching the top, no words were spoken, and with a single wordless gesture, they entered a dark cavern, each of them exploring a different section.

It wasn’t clear as to what they were looking for, not even to them. Perhaps they sought an entrance to the OZ base, or a secret lab, or possibly, just a place to store weapons. They found none of this in the cavern, merely old walls and dust. The cavern seemed to go on forever, and this was more than a job for the highly trained boys-at least at first glance. Even with the help of their equipment, it would still take some time.

“Wow . . .” one of the boys remarked, running a hand across the rough surface of the cave. There was respect in his voice, for the natural history of the cave. It was obvious this wasn’t man made-or if it was; it had been made many years prior. “There’s so much history here-it’s almost like-like this cavern has a mind of its own,”

Behind him, another boy stiffened, and looked at the first in mock annoyance. “Whoa, Quatre, man, don’t say stuff like that! This place is creepy enough without your help.” The braided boy grinned, looked in the vague direction of the others. He wrinkled his nose in distaste, noting they’d gone out his line of sight. “Hey, where’d everybody go?”

“Here,” a voice called, from somewhere in front of them. To anyone unfamiliar with the tall youth, he’d have sounded mildly indifferent-but that was how the boy always spoke. “This cave seems to go more than a mile out,” he added, noting the readings on his hand-held machine.

“Heero reported a little while ago,” the other boy added, indifferently tossing his long hair back over his shoulder where it belonged. “He’s gone almost a mile without hearing or seeing any sign of the ocean, or the base.”

Tapping the wall experimentally, he nodded in approval; this was an ideal place to hide something-if you didn’t mind the dark, that is. Which I do not. He thought to himself, unsure if he was stating the facts or trying to convince himself. He fidgeted, and looked back at Quatre.

Quatre frowned, lifting his hand from the walls, squinting in effort to see another of their comrades. “Trowa?” he called, looking in the apparent direction he’d heard the boy’s voice.

“Yes?” Came the quiet reply. He’d sounded to be more than twenty yards away. Trowa’s voice was somewhat muffled, but not in the least labored for all the activity they’d undergone.

“Have you heard from the others?” he asked, looking back towards the cave entrance. “I think we’ve got another two hours or so before sundown, and I’d rather not make that climb in the dark.”

“Yes,” Trowa agreed, knowing the possible hazards of climbing in the dark.

“Man,” the other quipped. “How can you tell? It’s dark enough in here--can’t see a thing in this light! It wouldn’t be much different out there; if we were gonna climb, anyway,” Leaning experimentally against the wall he’d previously checked, he looked questioningly at Quatre, who, naturally, ignored him. Rolling his eyes, the boy gave up on an answer, listening to see if they’d continue the conversation.

“Wufei hasn’t contacted me,” Trowa added, declining to correct the other boy’s apparent oversight. “He shouldn’t be too far ahead,” the tall youth continued, going back to his work.

“No,” Quatre agreed. Again silence claimed the cavern, as the boys searched for anything out of the ordinary. Barely an hour had passed before Quatre put his machine away, noting the group separated.

“Let’s call it a day,” the slight child called, speaking into the intercom device on his wrist. “I don’t think we’re going to find anything here, we might as well go,” Waiting in the chill air, he mentally calculated the time it would take to make the climb, and how long until the other pilots could join them.

“Acknowledged,” Heero’s voice rang over the intercom, smooth and emotionless as ever. Behind the blond, the braided boy fidgeted, noisily putting away his equipment.

“All right then, let’s go already!” The boy exclaimed, not bothering to use his own intercom, it was disguised as a watch. He knew his voice would carry, and carry it did in the frigid air of the cave. “This place gives me the creeps! Shinigami is outa here!” he continued, absently transferring the message across the system.

With that, he walked, or more accurately, bounced, out of the cavern. Quatre smiled, watching in amusement before redirecting his gaze. “I’ll see you outside. I’m moving out,” he transferred, smiling despite himself. “If we want to continue observations, we can come back later.”
Part 2

Completing his exercise with ease, Wufei carefully, almost reverently, lifted his weapon. As if in response, the sword gleamed in the dim light, catching the florescent rays and sending them back in glimmers and flashes. It was a good weapon, and deserved his care.

Sighing, Wufei put it in its place, still somewhat uneasy. The ritual hadn’t calmed him the way it normally would, and instead of quenching his worries, it had magnified them. Despite all his attempts, they hadn’t dispersed. Still agitated, he paced tightly up the hall, paying little attention to the adults downstairs.

The pacing did little to help his nerves; the hallway was obviously not made for such treatment. So far, they’d treated this mission with the utmost importance, meaning they’d gone through tedious procedure all foreign exchange students had to endure. The five of them had been sent to different houses, and they’d needed a way to keep in contact with each other if they were to be working closely in this.

It was Trowa who’d solved that problem, tampering with their watches until it acted as a superior radio link between them; similar to the ones they used in their Gundams. Heero had changed the frequency to a more difficult one to trace, adding numerous traps to deter even the most skilled hackers. They’d taken no chances at being caught through that particular knothole. However, using the watches to talk to their comrades had somewhat confused the machines, causing them to go at high speeds, or slow almost to a complete stop. So far, they hadn’t found a way to correct that, and the watches resisted their attempts to fix them.

Perhaps they’ve found something, or gone back out to that cave . . . Wufei thought. He needed something to get his mind off what was bothering him, and meditating was obviously not going to work. Adjusting the watch on his wrist, he activated the frequency, attempting to contact Quatre.

Quatre didn’t reply immediately, something that was expected. Unless he was by himself, he wouldn’t answer so quickly. After waiting a tedious five minutes, he gave up on the boy, beginning to pace anew. Quatre would contact him sooner or later; they’d devised a system to keep tabs on each other. Unless something prohibited him, Quatre would call each of the pilots sometime that evening. There was no set time, he’d wanted to avoid the notice of his ‘parents,’ and regularly shutting himself up in his room at the same time every night would arouse suspicion.

The time passed slowly for the Chinese boy, who’d been pacing the length of the hallway again until he’d attracted the notice of his guardians. After that, he’d been submitted to yet another ‘bonding’ session with his so-called-parents. Wufei snorted. After this mission was complete, he was leaving. Immediately. All this ‘bonding’ was giving him a headache.

It took all of his control to keep from blowing up at the Japanese couple, for several hours they talked of nothing but ‘family matters.’ School, work, friends, or lack there of, girlfriends, television, their own natural children, Wufei, school, and romance were among the topics they’d discussed. Or to be more precise, the subjects Wufei had been submitted to listening to, replying only when it was necessary, which proved to be quite a bit.

Walking up the stairs with a new respect for his ‘parents’, Wufei readied for bed, as his ‘mother’ had demanded. If they were interested enough, the two of them could make quite successful politicians; they were quite skilled in pulling information from people without the victim even realizing it. Their partner ship was well formed, as well; they knew when to speak up and when to let the other do the talking. Together they could persuade the unwitting to do something, although usually good for the person, they hadn’t wanted to do in the first place. But that, he supposed, was what made them parents.

Wufei stopped halfway up the stairway, realizing then that Quatre hadn’t attempted to contact him at all that night. Checking quickly on the location of his temporary guardians, he continued smoothly up the stairs and into his room, closing the door behind him.

Again attempting to contact the Arabian, he sat restlessly on the foot of his bed, only to get up and pace some more. Once more, the blond didn’t answer. Cursing under his breath, he attempted to contact Trowa. No reply met his summons. It was the same with all the pilots; none of them answered him, and they should be past all distractions by now. It was close to ten, and most guardians would have left their wards alone by now.

After quickly checking the wiring to his watch, he concluded that it was truly working properly, but all the same, it was highly improbable that the other four’s had all malfunctioned the same night. Cursing under his breath, Wufei quickly constructed a dummy to place in his bed, and went to the window. Barely twelve feet high, it was not hard to reach the ground from that level.

Upon reaching it, however, he did not head in the direction of the houses, but rather the cave they’d left a day before. If they’d been at home, they’d contact him, and the cave was the one place of importance they’d been to for the past few days.

He paid little mind to the scenery as he hiked across the green hills, intent on reaching the cave. The soft moonlight didn’t illuminate much, but the streetlights offered more than enough light to see by.

The houses seemed those of a fairy tale, tiled roofs were each adorned with a shi-shi lion to guard its inhabitants. Anywhere else this would have seemed out of place, but on the island it seemed fitting. Any laundry that had been left to dry had been already collected before nightfall; the owners knowing well that anything left outside would usually be covered with dew by sunrise.

As he walked by the solitary temple, the prayer trees swayed in the slight breeze, the little prayers tied to it crinkling as he passed. Hours seemed to pass as he made his way to the cavern, the soft grass damp with dew already forming.

After an eternity of walking, the cave entrance stood before him, defying the soft light the rest of the island gloried in. The cave seemed darker now, dead to the world of light and laughter, no longer the quiet sanctuary he’d found it earlier, while the light still graced the land.

Mentally cursing the other pilots for their neglect, Wufei stepped carefully into the cavern, his dark eyes taking in the light denied walls. Mindful of all possibilities, he looked cautiously about for a sign of ambush. Finding none, he continued on. He didn’t have to travel far; amongst the shadows there sat a boy of slight build and small stature.

The figure rose, walking calmly towards he Chinese boy, his footsteps ringing softly against the hallowed walls. Wufei stopped, frowning with discontent. Something was not right, his instincts kept telling him something was wrong, but . . .

Now immerging from the shadows, the boy stopped, looking up at Wufei with disconnected eyes. The sense of wrongness intensified; in Wufei’s mind, the warning was a wailing screech similar to a windstorm whistling through trees. After finally meeting those eyes, Wufei blinked at what he found, involuntarily stepping back at what he found.

Quatre smiled a hollowly, bearing little semblance to the quietly determined boy he knew. The smile widened at Wufei’s obvious discomfort, and gestured minutely behind him.

In response, two figures stood, immerging from the darker shadows Wufei’s eyes had been unable to penetrate. One walked with grace seeming more fitted to a cat, the smooth liquid movements of an acrobat or a dancer, while the other seemed to flit through the shadows as one of the things itself. Both were slightly taller than the blond, the first more obviously so. A chestnut braid swung easily as the second closed in, leaving no doubt in Wufei’s mind who exactly it was coming towards them. Beneath a waterfall of brown hair, a single emerald eye shown curiously, confirming Wufei’s earlier suspicion. Both stopped a single step short of the Arabian, and waited calmly.

Warily reaching for a sword he’d not thought to bring, he felt his hand close on the gun secured out of sight. In response, Quatre chuckled softly, seemingly amused at his actions. Trowa glanced briefly at the Chinese boy, curiosity showing clearly in his one visible eye. Wufei blinked, somewhat surprised. Trowa normally showed as much emotion as the absent Heero, and this minute display again reminded him all was not as it appeared.

“I could, you know,” Quatre said quietly, in a curious sort of voice. His voice did not echo on the walls as his footsteps had, though Wufei suspected that was merely a show of dramatics. He knew very well all of them could walk silently, if they so chose.

Raising his gun in reply, Wufei felt he did not need to answer.

Quatre laughed softly, his disconnected eyes all innocence and mirth, no longer the coldly dispassionate eyes so out of place on his soft features. He took one step closer, and stopped, barely inches from Wufei’s extended gun.
“I could give you Duo’s love,
And live it like a dream.
Or I could show you Trowa’s world,
Where all is not what it seems.”
Part 3

Wufei had had enough. None of this behavior was normal for the small pilot, and quite frankly, it was making him uncomfortable. Quatre took a minute step closer upon completing his little bit of poetry, a bare inch from the barrel of his gun.

“If you don’t explain what’s going on, Winner,” Wufei began tightly, adjusting his stance. He didn’t trust his gun to do the job here; what he wanted was his sword. “I won’t be responsible for my actions here after.”

Quatre laughed softly, the sound reawakening the sense of wrongness Wufei had previously sensed. Neither of the two summoned by his hand moved, looking vaguely in his direction. “You wouldn’t understand, Wufei,” Quatre said gently, a touch of impatience in his voice.

The sense of wrongness intensified, nearly overpowering his will to stay. Wufei’s eyes flashed, and he stiffened as if he’d taken offense. If his previous actions hadn’t condemned him before, Quatre’s last statement certainly had. “Explain.” Wufei demanded, his eyes narrowing.

Something like annoyance flashed momentarily in the blond’s eyes, before masked by another burst of laughter. “You wouldn’t, Wufei, and nothing I could say would make you.” He said evenly. “You must accept that; don’t make me repeat myself.”

Feeling his lip curl involuntarily, Wufei looked angrily at the other two pilots, neither of whom met his gaze. It was almost as if Wufei didn’t exist, they bestowed as much thought to him as they did the granite beneath his feet. Feeling his grip tighten on the cold metal, Wufei glanced briefly from his gun to the still smiling Quatre, whose smile widened when he saw the Chinese boy’s reaction.

“Do it,” he whispered, his laughing eyes belying his calm voice. His fist tightening over the weapon, he felt his resolve not to use violence weaken. Something had obviously happened and he wanted to know what. “Are you afraid?” Quatre continued.

It took only a second, and it was done. Many things can happen in the space of that time, something we, as humans, generally don’t think about. In one second, a life can be saved, and taken away just as quickly.

Wufei pulled the trigger.

Quatre rocked back with the force of the bullet, his chest a bloody mess of clothing and blood. At such a close distance, much of Quatre’s chest had been torn away, leaving muscle and bone bare to the chill air of the cavern. Wufei’s whites were stained red with blood, as was much of the cave around them. Unwilling, he released the gun to the stone floor below, his mind whirling, not wanting to confirm what his eyes told him. Quatre was dead . . . and he had killed him.

Trowa looked distantly at the bloodied figure, not in the least bit interested. And then, it began to move.

The blood flow slowed and clotted, tissue and bone overlaid the wound, working at a supernatural rate. Supernatural? Wufei wondered. Everything that’s happened here is supernatural! Within moments, the wound was healed, and nothing remained to show it had ever existed, but for the tear in the fabric and the blood around them. Quatre sat up, chuckling softly. Resting a moment against the stonewall, he slowly picked himself up, not meeting Wufei’s gaze until he had raised himself to his full height.

Blue eyes searched black, looking for some trace of emotion. Wufei stared blankly at the Arabian, his lip curling involuntarily. “Well,” Quatre said finally, twirling something in his hands. Risking a brief glance at the object in question, Wufei realized then he’d dropped his weapon. And Quatre had picked it up. “You certainly are in a bad mood,” Quatre chided, shaking his head slowly at Wufei’s attitude. “I think . . . you should calm down.”

Wufei’s eyes narrowed, and just as he was about to reply, he realized Duo was no longer standing behind the blond, but rather, beside him. Smiling, Duo waved briefly, and just as the Chinese boy started to turn, something hit him across the head. His fatigued body fell limply to his captor’s feet, and he knew no more.

“Thank you, Trowa,” Quatre said softly, the smile gone from his face. “I think when he wakes up from his nap, he’ll be much happier.”

No light brightened these walls of stone, and no laughter would ever remain long. The four boys did not move, and the darkness was immense.

I awoke in darkness. I was surrounded by it, its cool embrace stealing the warmth from my body even as my eyes slowly opened. I was cold, I realized then, colder than I would have liked, but there was nothing I could do about that. My silks were wet, and at first that puzzled me. Running my hands across the dampened silk, I let out a sharp cry. I hadn’t been dragged through a puddle, and I had not walked through the rain. My silks were dark with blood. The blood I had spilled by my own hand; Quatre’s blood.

The cold will not be so intolerable if I am moving, I thought to myself, and I hastened to bring myself to my feet. Should one of the pilots, or an OZ soldier, come across me I wouldn’t be well off. The latter of the two choices seemed impossible, but then again, this whole ordeal had seemed that way at one point or another. Wincing, I slowly examined the room in which I’d come to.

Finding it empty, I scowled, rising to my feet. The moment I did so, I regretted the action, feeling the pain in my head return with a vengeance. Cursing under my breath, I leaned heavily against the wall, not intending to move until I’d figured out what I was to do. Undoubtedly, I would have, too, had my concentration not been broken.

A howl split the chill air, breaking the silence as thoroughly as finely spun glass. A huge gray wolf loped easily towards me, its rough gait disjointed and oddly out of balance. On all fours, it came up a little past my waist, its head twice the size of my own with teeth too large for its mouth to comfortably hold. Dripping saliva, its tongue hung limply out of its mouth, wide amber eyes glinting with unmistakable madness. It reared up on its hind legs then, howling as it began its attack.

Its hind legs are stronger than its front, I noted, it can stand tall as a man, but it can’t walk like one . . . The reason was painfully obvious; its huge forearms were simply too big to balance with. The added weight to its upper half would make it dangerously unbalanced, had it not been for its tail. It attempted to take me out quickly and effortlessly, but I had other plans.

As it lunged forward to take a swing, I struck out at its unprotected torso, using its awkward state of balance to my advantage. Quickly it shielded itself with its heavy arms, blocking my attacks effectively. It used them as a double advantage, I saw. They were a shield against oncoming attacks, and a sword to penetrate the enemy’s defenses. The tough, almost metal like muscle of the beast’s arms was impossible to get through, it was pointless trying to do so. I stepped back momentarily to appraise the challenge the beast presented, and waited calmly for it to open itself for attack.

My blood raced hot throughout my body, bringing a roaring thunder to my ears as my headache returned. The pain near blinded me, sending me off balance for a brief, precious moment. The beast took not the advantage offered to it, demonstrating its slow wit and reactions.

The beast circled me for several moments, waiting for me to let down my guard, as I waited for it. Patience . . . I counseled. Patience. If you cannot outwait an animal, you have no right to be here at all. Ignoring the fact that I had not come here of my own free will, the thought nonetheless calmed me. I did not have to wait long, for an opportunity soon came knocking. Swiftly I moved in to intercept the attack, striking out at the vulnerable places on its stomach and neck, before once more I was forced to step back and wait again.

The game had begun. I waited calmly for the wolf-thing to attack, all the while keeping my mind busy. Not only on the battle, however, for that would be inviting doom, but the surrounding areas as well. I was well aware that at any moment this battle could be intercepted and a new threat taken up. The beast lacked intelligence, it seemed, despite its size and strength, it lacked the basic wisdom a normal wolf possessed.

One more hit, and the wolf was down, erupting in a vibrant flare of blue flames, leaving nothing but a small pile of nuts in its wake. Not even ashes scattered about the floor, just the small pile of nuts. I stared, dumbfounded. Bodies were not supposed to disappear like that, not in real life. In video games, perhaps it could happen, but not in real life.

A slight humming noise interrupted my thoughts, and a slow swirl of golden light revealed a simple wooden chest. Looking dubiously at the nuts and then the chest, I blinked, unsure what my next course of action should be. Scooping the nuts up in my hand, I deposited them in my pocket, thinking they might be of use later. Walking over to the chest, I kicked it open, unsure of what I might find.

A small key lay at the bottom of the box, plain and unadorned. Made of pure, unblemished silver, it seemed more a curiosity than anything of great importance. It was of an old design, unlike the common, everyday keys you would use to start a car, or unlock the door, but of the simple design used long ago in the past. I didn’t see a reason to discard it, and there were more than enough reasons to take it with me.

Pacing the perimeter of the room once more, I noted it had two doors; one barred, and the other leading to the outside world. The sunlight beckoned, for humans were not made for the dark, and this small release was enough to tempt even I from my chosen course. Tearing my gaze from the slowly rising sun, I looked back at the second door, and realized the silver handle matched that of the key I carried. Walking slowly across the chamber, I slid the key into the lock, and opened the door.
Part 4

The next door loomed in front of me, hard and unyielding to any force I might apply. Reaching into my pocket, I touched the two keys to reassure myself of their presence. Pulling the two clear of their dark enclosure, I briefly examined the intricate designs etched into their surface. Though similar in appearance, the two keys were vastly different in their own subtle ways. Each key was made for a specific lock, and would not open any door other than the one intended.

I’d unwittingly tried to open this very door with the wrong key, and the effect almost sent me to dreams for the second time that day. Each key were similar, only the handle was different, and the thin, spider like runes creeping down along the stem. The same design would appear on the door it was to unlock, I realized after the first incident with the wrong key. I made use of this information by checking the two for pairs, and making certain the door was the correct one. I doubted I could stay conscious through a repeat of the first episode.

Someone obviously wanted me here, but it wasn’t necessarily the keeper of this strange temple. The logic puzzles and ‘monster’ attacks weren’t difficult enough for full strength of mind or body. Perhaps they’re toying with me, I thought to myself, shifting the keys in my grasp. Perhaps, whoever had brought me here, The others, I reminded myself, feeling my lips curl in disdain at the thought of my fellow pilots. Perhaps . . . perhaps they’d, assuming ‘they’ were not my companions, wanted a challenge, and this temple was the test I’d have to pass to prove my worth. I scoffed. This temple was hardly a test, just an inconvenience.

Why did I bother to continue? I wondered. I knew there was a slight possibility the others were in danger, but only Heero so far hadn’t given me a reason not to look for them. Despite their earlier actions toward me, I’d make an attempt to rescue them, should the need arise. But I won’t let them forget it, I grimly thought to myself, looking at the lock and selecting the corresponding key.

I smiled despite the situation, and stepped inside as the door shut behind me, bracing myself for some animal to attack. Nothing happened. Ahead of me was another door; this one too, was locked. The room itself was square, hardly larger than a closet. There were two pots lining the corners of the walls, and the door opposite me was not the only one; another door was to my left, but apparently it was locked from the other side.

Dismissing the other door from my mind, I pulled the one remaining key from my pocket, and slid it easily into the lock. The door opened smoothly, as had the others in this odd temple, despite its apparent age. I knew for a fact no such place existed on the small island of Okinawa, but I was not awake during the journey here. I could only assume that’s where I was; I’d only been out for a few hours, judging by the distance the sun had risen by the time I’d awoke.

I stepped through the door. It closed silently behind me, and I cautiously stepped around the corner, preparing myself for another attack. This time, I was not disappointed. A pair of skeletal warriors leaped from what I could only assume to be the ceiling, lifting their swords of darkened bone in an undeniable challenge. The creatures were dressed as rogue knights; what little remained of their clothing hung in tattered rags, barely covering their hips, all else that remained was a few pieces of plate armor and a heavy, round shield. Its bones were yellowed with age and partial decay, but they clinked as steel against the stone floor. Their eyes glowed with a red light, and one laughed cruelly, a deep menacing laugh that only roused my fury.

They leapt at me instantly, simultaneously attacking with their bone swords. Careful not to be caught between them, I rolled to one side, searching for something that I could defend myself with. The nuts I’d gathered earlier seemed to have escaped the confinements of my pocket, and in my haste to find something; I threw the nuts at one of the assaulting warriors. The nut cracked with a blinding flash of blue light, freezing one of the bone warriors in place. Hitting it squarely in chest, it staggered back a moment before beginning its circuit again.

While I dealt with this one, the other attacked from behind, fighting like a mad man. The skeletal warrior gave no quarter and asked for none.

It moved with the staggered jerk of a beginner, but so quickly I nonetheless had problems keeping up with it. Whenever I seemed to have planted a solid kick on it, it had already leaped over my head and attacked from behind, cutting at my unprotected flank. The constant whirling kept me off balance, and the other skeletal thing didn’t seem content to circle any longer, and added its own blade as I attempted the same tactics I’d used against the wolf.

Like the wolf-beast, the skeletal warriors were aggressive, but not overly intelligent. I didn’t stop to think about how they could possibly be attacking, by all logic these things should not have been able to move, let alone carry a heavy broadsword of bone. The moment the knight began its assault, leaving itself open to further attack, I threw another of the nuts in its face, nearly sending it into the far wall with a kick that nearly knocked me off balance.

There were tales of the undead all over the world, I knew. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing some tale of them, it seemed. These, however, reminded me of a particular kind, the Stalfos Knights. They were the undead knights of old, come back to haunt the ruins in which they’d lost their human form . . . Fire or wood could not destroy them, only steel could lay them to rest. I knew instinctively if I didn’t get my hands on a sword now, I could fight these things until I collapsed of exhaustion, and they still wouldn’t die.

Desperate, I searched the room again, and almost stopped. In the corner, I realized I’d missed something in my first sweep of the area. A chest. Unlike the others I’d seen so far, this one was a good three feet off the ground, and almost as wide. Using the oncoming Stalfos as my leverage, I leapt a good distance into the air, landing with a graceful flip atop the large chest. Smiling grimly, I hastily hopped down, opening it quickly.

I grinned in elation at the contents of the box, eagerly lifting a slender sword from the bottom. Not taking the time to examine the make or design of the blade, I turned just in time to parry the attack of one of the Stalfos, and waited. It showed no response to the fact I now had a real blade in my hands, instead of fighting hand and foot as I had before.

Interesting, I thought. It doesn’t know or care what it fights, or how its enemy fights it. My lips tightened into a grim line as it dawned on me; all it knows is to attack. It repeats the same patterns over and over. It will never learn, and it will never tire. It will just . . . attack. With a cry I struck at it, over and over, until the first warrior collapsed inward in a pile of bones. I’d come to expect the flames of blue to envelope the bodies of my enemies, so it came of no surprise to me when this one was no exception.

These undead warriors were nothing but tools used by some . . . thing. I loathed addressing this unknown enemy as a person, unwilling to give such a name to something so foul as to use the dead as its own personal weapon. These souls needed, no, deserved, rest after so long. It was a cruel punishment to keep them on this plain, no matter their guilt in life.

My eyes narrowed as I took on the other Stalfos, and I bowed stiffly to it. “I don’t know who your master is,” I growled, unable to keep the snarl of fury from my face. “But I doubt you know anything but to fight.” I felt my voice rising, unable to control the anger as it grew within me. “I don’t know what kind of a thing would use the dead so immorally! You have died once, and so you shall again.”

The thing made no action to show it had understood, or even heard me. It leaped above and over my head, attempting to cut again at my backside. It was quick enough this time. Expecting the move, I’d turned already, and struck a blow on its collarbone hard enough to send the sword and bone ringing with agitation. The noise was loud in the stone room, and echoed all the more for the close quarters.

Attempting to thrust its sword past my defenses, the Stalfos leaped to the side, giving me the opening I needed. I cut this one down as easily as the last. Hearing the soft clang of metal against metal, I whirled around once more, catching sight of three more of the undead knights. They attacked in unison, attempting to catch me between their blades.

Borrowing their own trick, I leapt up and behind the first of the warriors, attacking its chest as I stepped lightly aside as it whirled to counter my attack. Before it could do any damage, I was up and out of the way, using similar techniques against its comrades. An angry yell burst from my lips as another of the things erupted in blue flames, leaving no trace of its passing.

Within minutes the final two were put to rest at last, and I staggered for the first time in my steps. Dropping the sword to the cold stone floor, I clutched my head between my hands, and stayed that way until the headache passed. Slowly rising to my feet, I looked for the other door, locked, undoubtedly. I looked, and noted with sour distaste that it was indeed locked. Stepping from the room in silence, I gave the chamber not a backwards glance, and looked for the next door.
Part 5

The cursed hallways never seemed content to leave off; they preferred to continue onward, despite reason. The endless hallways, going on, past eternity and beyond all direction . . . The hallways were made of dark stone, with curling vines of ivy adorning the otherwise bare walls. In some places, the temple lacked a roof, letting the rising sun brighten the area, but in others, blazing torches lit the way. Besides the ivy and the strange creatures that attacked me, the temple was barren of life.

The floor, whether it be hard, unyielding stone, or the beaten earth, was hard enough for my footsteps to ring, but then again, I was not using my best efforts to keep silent. Whoever had brought me here already knew of my presence, the pretense of silence would do me little good, and the sounds of those attacking monsters would decidedly alert them to my presence if they hadn’t known before that.

Despite the abandoned, overgrown feel to the place, it was in fairly good repair. The temple must have had someone looking after it, or the torches wouldn’t be lit. As far as I could tell, there was nothing electric about the place; someone had lit the torches by hand. But who had done so? Why bother, when no one ever came? Except, maybe, them. They would need light to see by, true, but they could carry their own torch instead of lighting all these; it would conserve supplies, and be less of a fire hazard. I scowled; highly displeased with the conclusion I’d come to. None of this was making sense.

Touching the stone wall with my free hand, I wondered at the possibility of all this being an illusion . . . perhaps I’d dreamed up the creatures . . . The cool touch of my sword said otherwise, but perhaps that was only part of the illusion created. If it was an illusion, it was a complex one. One had to marvel at the extent of work; it was truly beautiful, in a forgotten sort of way.

I smiled. Forgotten . . . yes, this temple had been forgotten by mankind, had it ever known of its existence. Perhaps it hadn’t . . . perhaps this was a place in my dreams, or the damned keeper of this godforsaken place. Whatever god this temple was built for had abandoned its worshipers, or perhaps they abandoned it. If that god existed, that is. I don’t have Maxwell’s faith in a one, all-powerful God. If this God was so great, why didn’t he do anything? I made a mental note to ask the braided idiot, if I ever saw him again. I sighed to myself; yet another reason to rescue them. Curiosity.

Curiosity is a powerful motivator, and one that will often send me where I go. Whether that be the pitiful selection of books these idiots here call the library, or my own private study, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes I’ll come across a university with copies of ancient novels I don’t have, and I’ll spend some time there, committing some of it to memory, or memorizing the author’s name so I might find it again later. There’s nothing like a curious attitude to get your peers’ attention, something you must keep in mind when you’re posing as a ‘normal’ person in my line of work.

Pushing other thoughts aside, I looked down at the blade in my hand. I mean finally looked at it; more than just a simple acknowledgement that it existed, but looked. During my battle, I hadn’t taken much notice of it, but now that I took the time to appreciate this finely crafted sword, its high quality astounded me. In the entire modern world, there was none like it, nor could its equal ever hope to be forged in this era of machines and science.

A Master of his craft had forged it; that much was clear by simple appearance. I felt a smile forming on my face, noting with approval that it lacked the fancy ornaments and gems that so impressed amateur swordsmen. Those unnecessary weights could severely affect the balance of the blade, and this one’s near perfect balance was another example of expertise. The only decoration of the jeweled type was a small sapphire on the very top of the hilt, a gem that sparkled eerily in the firelight.

The blade was made of what appeared to be white gold, but I knew it couldn’t be that, not if it could withstand the Stalfos’ blade with hardly a scratch. A sapphire glow seemed to radiate from the slightly curved blade, faint and barely detectable. If I were ever the type to believe in gods, I’d have taken this as a sign of whatever god’s blessing. Or curse. The sword’s hilt was wrapped in a cloth similar to the sapphire glow in color, thin and near radiating. The cloth gave the smooth metal texture, a touch that seemed to compliment its features beautifully. Indeed, this was a weapon of deadly beauty and grace, so I could only treasure it as I would any piece of art.

Pulling my mind from the beauty of the sword, I looked up again, wondering what I would do next. You’ll find the end of this damned hallway, that’s what . . . I answered myself. After that, you’ll take whatever is thrown at you. Snorting, I had to scowl at that thought. I hardly liked depending on intuition and impulse to guide my actions, for I was not Duo. Maxwell, I corrected, scowling at the oversight. Getting to be too friendly with the other pilot would lead to difficulties. He was wont to do just that; relying on impulse to finish a job, adjusting his plans at the blink of an eye. I would adjust when it would best benefit me, and I still didn’t like relying on impulses. But I didn’t know what to expect in this odd temple, and that appeared my only option; wait, and adjust accordingly.

I sighed, and walked on.

Upon reaching the end of the hallway, I found another door. Gritting my teeth, I opened it, expecting to see yet another corridor. What I found was the next worst thing. A stairway. Scowling at the offending object, I hesitantly started up, keeping a look out for creatures descending from above. My insight proved a wise one, as a huge bat swooped down upon me.

My sword was up before I realized exactly what was happening, and the huge bat was dead in heartbeats, cut in half by a powerful thrust. There were many bats on Okinawa, but all of them harmless fruit bats. None of them would ever attack a person; their personal sonar would have warned them before such an undignified accident was made. Obviously, this bat wasn’t a normal bat, and it was, similar to the vampire bat, but larger. Another one swooped down, its claws extended as it screeched a warning. I looked up.

Near twenty of the things hung in the air, circling like a cloud of living missiles. At that point, I decided their attack wasn’t worth waiting for.

Performing a tactical retreat--you’re running. I thought before hastily shoving that thought aside.

I covered the distance at a surprisingly fast rate, running just fast enough for the bat to keep a comfortable distance behind me. Only a few feet were left in front of me when a blazing missile crossed my path. I stepped aside, striking out with my sword, startled. The damned things had flown through a torch, and caught its brittle body on fire, creating a double quandary for me.

I snarled, having taken more than enough for the day. I’d been in the temple for less than an hour, and already I tired of it. This was humiliating, having to run from bats. “Stop with your games!” I demanded, loosing my temper. “This proves nothing!”

Naturally, the things ignored me, exactly as whomever this thrice-damned keeper had. Growling in growing annoyance, I downed another of the things, reaching the door just before another flame-enveloped bat flew towards me.

Slamming the door behind me, I stepped out into a dark, cool room, hardly bigger than a closet. The room was lit with two torches only, causing the shadows to flicker and wave eerily. It was absent of any apparent enemies, which was a relief; if I’d had to fight in these conditions, the outcome wouldn’t be good. In close quarters, the enemy could back me up against a wall, for there was little enough room to move, and a blade would be hard to avoid.

There were three doors, and one of them locked. Feeling for the key in my pocket, I examined the runes, and then the lock. I smiled grimly, pleased to have found a match. Sliding the key into the lock, it turned, and opened. Stepping warily inside, I looked about for an enemy, seen or unseen.

The room itself was circular in shape, large, but its actual size was not easily defined from the doorway. The walls of stone bore no torches, but a strange and pearly light filled the room, coming from no apparent direction. A thick mist centered on the center of the room, obscuring any clear view I might have had. Squinting, I took a hesitant step forward; trying to make out the form I saw lying in the hazy center.

I took one step, and then another, all of them very slow. Looking at the floor of the room, I noticed an intricate design on it, similar in appearance to a spider stretching its legs, as if it were to touch the very walls of the room. Curious, I moved forward still, and stopped. No, I thought. I must be seeing things . . .

But it was, and for once, I envied Duo’s ability to fallow his impulses, because at that moment, I wanted nothing more than to escape. But I couldn’t, and that . . . was that.

Darkness. It was the only thing that existed, for one, fleeting moment. There was nothing left but it . . . and the mist. A moment frozen in time, clearer than anything else had been or ever could be.

Imagine a basin filled with clear water. When you put something in it, the water will ripple, but only for a moment. Its shaken waters will calm, and you will be able to see that object you placed within the transparent pool with a surreal quality that exists no where else . . . except, perhaps, in dreams. But it can be shaken again, and the vision will be clouded with the waves of clear water. Almost, one could say, like the mist.

Freeze the water, and it will never waver, and the waves will never crash upon the cool edges of your basin. But the vision . . . shall not be the same. That same procedure that preserves the stillness shall cloud the once perfect water, making it difficult to see through, and so it shall be a challenge to interpret.

When you walk on ice, however, it can crack, and send you falling into chill waters. Dark waters that know no depth, colder still for the ice that blocks the sun, keeping what heat it might obtain forever locked away. It’s hard to fight your way to the surface, so hard . . . There’s no way to tell up from down, and your leaden feet pull you to the bottom, where the ice that keeps out the sun will lock you within.

Beware of frost-covered ice; you know not what lies beneath.

The mist was present throughout the entire room, gathering in the center, and it was thicker there than anywhere else. I knew what it enclosed . . . whom, rather, not what.

The sense of wrongness that polluted the entire temple seemed to gather here, much like the mist that collected in the center of the room. Here, in this place where things should seem most . . . wrong, I felt more relaxed than I had the entire journey. That itself put me at odds, forcing my guard up once more.

“Duo.” I said, much surprised by the boy’s sudden, or not so sudden, appearance. Frowning slightly, I tightened my grip on the sword, taking a small step forward. “What are you doing here?” I said this as calmly as I was able, but nonetheless I could not keep the growing irritation from my voice.

The boy smiled quietly, unlike to the smile we were all so accustomed to seeing, this one lacked the usual warmth and character I associated with Duo. Nor was it the maniac grin he wore during a heated battle, it lacked both the determination and the one emotion I could scarcely place . . . I would call it insanity, but it’s not. It goes so much deeper than that.

“Nothing,” He said finally, rising smoothly to his feet. At first glance, it appeared he was wearing the priest’s outfit we were all so accustomed to, but there were seemingly insignificant differences I noted instantly. The priest’s collar was gone, and there were subtle style changes I couldn’t quite describe, but the affect was more than just pleasurable to look at.

Scowling with irritation, I brought my mind back to present matters at hand, forcing my attention where it belonged. I was hardly in the mood to appreciate his style, and I had a job to do. My frown deepened as I walked over to him, choosing my next question with care. “Then,” I began, carefully schooling my expression to one of nonchalance. “Do you know where you are?”

Duo shook his head mutely, staring at me with wide amethyst eyes. Their curious glare seemed much more intense than it should have; something deeper was lurking behind the curious front. It was almost as if he was looking for something . . . Like I had something I shouldn’t have, or knew something normally denied mere mortals.

Amethyst. Once it was prized as a precious gem, more for its odd color than for its rarity. Now, it’s classed as a semiprecious stone, and as a member of the quartz family. Nothing, however, is semiprecious about Duo; his eyes are compared to that semiprecious stone, but they’re more valuable than that. Gems of the earth; his eyes are as a star that shines somewhere, far, far away . . . Rarely found in living beings, it’s an oddity to be found in humans, something people of the past would often take as a sign of evil or magic.

Perhaps they were right.

Amethyst itself is never really constant in color, the shades blend together in various layers of color and light, scattered throughout the crystal like water. It was similar indeed to Duo’s eyes, which seem to change with his moods, or more accurately, as the light does. His eyes now resembled the ocean surrounding this small island, deep, dark, and ominous to behold. These were nighttime waters, unlike the beautiful, clear waters of the daylight, they did not sparkle with light and laughter.

Under normal circumstances, his eyes will tell you all you need to know. To those who know him, that is. And I mean really know him, not as a friend would, but as soul kin. To the four of us pilots, Duo’s eyes hold no mystery; if he’s hiding something from us, we can usually tell.

The windows to the soul; as eyes are often called. If this is true, then the soul is a beautiful and terrifying thing to behold indeed. Always changing, never constant, day to day, the eyes, and thus, the soul, never remains the same.

Gems endure much, over time. They hold things in; trapped light and beauty. But they’re considered worthless by the common public until cut and polished to the jeweler’s satisfaction, and set in the appropriate bonds. Confined, no longer free, and hidden beneath a glossy surface that throws light back at its holder.

If gems are of similarity to eyes, then do eyes too, hold things in? The light, the laughter . . . caught in the eyes and held there for all time. They’re memory preservers, but then again, the blind too have memories.

“Well then,” I said, nodding slightly. Keeping my expression neutral, I went on. “Do you remember anything of the past few hours?” His and the other pilots’ behavior was painfully clear despite this hazy room.

Duo laughed softly, closing his eyes and touching a hand to my sleeve as if to steady himself. “How could I not?” he purred. “When you . . .” He smiled again. “When you shot Quatre.”

I stiffened at the reminder, recalling that unfamiliar feeling of lost control. Maybe they’d planned it that way, I thought. Maybe they'd done it to make me lose control, and thus, to hold some power over me. I paused in my thoughts, looking again at the gently smiling boy. If they’d planned it that way, that is. If they had, perhaps it was to make me feel . . . helpless. And, I thought ironically, to show they could hurt me.

Eyes hold memories, then. Perhaps. If so, they don’t only hold the laughter we so cherish, but also the tears. The death, the despair, memory of the things we’re fighting against in this godforsaken war. Would they disappear, just because . . . we won? Hardly.

“Hn.” I replied stiffly, refusing to give him any other reaction than what I chose. And if I chose not to address that, I wouldn’t. “Duo,” I said, losing some of my patience.

“Yes?” he asked softly, his voice barely above a whisper. I blinked at his interruption, startled at the sudden change in his voice. The normally overly loud pilot was acting . . . strangely. You could almost always hear him before you saw him, but this was not the case as of now.

“Why didn’t you help me?” I asked coolly, meeting his gaze and holding it.

“Help you with what?” He asked with another smile, rolling his shoulders out
lazily. I pursed my lips, willing him to stop avoiding my questions. “Help you kill Quatre?” he snorted softly, looking at me with distaste. “Surely you didn’t want that . . .” he paused, and a dispassionate smile darkened his features. “Then again, you aimed to kill . . . right in the chest. You would’ve killed him, too . . .”

Before I could regain my control, I shoved him backwards. “Don’t attempt to judge me, Maxwell! You have no right.” His eyes danced with amusement at my outburst, and he smoothly covered the distance between us with one step.

Smiling again, he continued his onslaught of words, cruelly forcing me on the defensive. “I think I do, Wufei,” he retorted pleasantly, an edge of venom creeping in among the sweet and guile. “If you want to kill one of my friends . . . then I think I have every right to judge.” Another of those cold smiles crept across his face, discouraging any retort I might make. Before I had the chance though, he went on. “You would demand my help now, when you have no right to ask of it. Would you take us all with you, Wufei, on your fall from grace?”

My eyes blazed, and it was all I could do to keep from exploding. “That’s not it, Maxwell. You know very well that’s not what I said!”

I felt Duo’s amethyst eyes sweep across my torn and blood covered silks, taking the split cloth and scratches in my skin and for what they were. This quick and efficient assessment left me feeling detached and cold, for he did not do this for concern of me. He did it to derive what sort of fighting condition I was in, nothing more, and nothing less. I couldn’t hide the traces of those battles, and I didn’t really want to.

Maxwell held me in scorn, and maybe for a good reason. After all, Quatre hadn’t attacked me until I had . . . hurt . . . him. True, he’d been acting strangely, and I was provoked, but was that any reason to go around killing people? Doubt wracked my mind, I was no longer sure I was so guiltless in my crime.

I’d been provoked, I knew that and acknowledged it. But since when had I allowed such crude emotions to rule my actions? When provoked, normally I don’t kill people, I’m more prone to talking— ranting, really—about it until they understand their actions. Or at least think they understand.

“But that’s what you meant.” Duo said quietly, subtly moving forward until our faces were almost touching. To have him so close was a definite test of my self-control. Whether I wanted to kill him or hold him, I couldn’t tell you. He smiled again, this time not one of those cold, unfeeling ones, but a softer, gentler one. “Wufei . . . I will help you.”

Startled by this change, I blinked at him, wary and unsure what this sudden declaration meant. “How?” I asked quickly, stepping back before my body betrayed my true feelings about such close contact. “What can you do here, Duo?”

Something’s not right . . . I thought. His attitude is certainly different, but not quite so different as—I stopped. Not . . . quite so different as Quatre’s.

I felt myself stiffen with this sudden realization, putting another step between Duo and myself. The boy smiled at this, not in the least bit deterred. “I’ll help you,” he repeated. “You shall not make this journey alone . . .” Taking me in his arms, he brushed his lips gently against mine. Startled, I cried out in alarm, pushing him back once more.

This is . . . definitely not right. I thought, my newly acquired sword pointed directly at Duo’s throat. Duo didn’t flinch at the close contact of steel, of which I assumed the sword was made, nor did he attempt to defend himself.

If it’s not right, a voice asked, its quiet voice ringing in my mind. Why do you enjoy it so?

No! I thought desperately. This isn’t Duo, something’s happened to them, to all the pilots. Duo is not the one in control here . . .

Snapping out of my phase, I finally looked at Duo, whom I found genuinely hurt
by my reaction. Folding his arms across his chest, he frowned at me a moment, his beautiful violet eyes seemingly too large for his face. They were filled with sadness, those eyes . . . Sadness and . . . something. What, I could not say.

“Isn’t that what you want, Wufei?” He asked quietly, stepping forward again. With my sword extended, he couldn’t get much closer, though it was clear if he could, he’d take me up in his embrace again. “Aren’t I . . . what you want?” His throat was pressed lightly against the point of my blade, not hard enough to penetrate skin, but enough to make him acutely aware of its presence, I’m sure.

Why resist? A voice asked, soft with compassion. You want him, don’t you? And he, the voice paused, taking a moment to concentrate on Duo. He obviously wants you.

Duo’s question had caught me by surprise. My sword wavering, I stuttered a muted denial, knowing my face flushed crimson. The change on his face was almost immediate, as quickly as the mood had come upon him, it was gone. The vulnerability vanished with a sneer, and he spoke again. “Walking into spider webs, aren’t we?” His eyes flared a dazzling shade of violet, as he pushed my blade aside. Stepping forward, he caught me once again in his embrace, planting a gentle kiss on my lips. “Listen carefully, and you will hear it,” he whispered, roughly shoving me away.

“But that’s too late now.” The cold smile returned, cruel amusement tugging at the corners of his lips. “You wouldn’t take the gift offered to you,” He continued, snaking his arm around mine, he forced the blade from my grasp. It fell gracelessly to the stone floor with a clatter, leaving me weaponless, but hardly vulnerable.

“And so . . .” he said quietly, his eyes glittering dangerously. “So now, you’ll die.”

And so the ice broke, revealing the jagged rocks beneath.

Part 6 (NEW!)

When time seems to slow, and then to stop, it freezes over, in a manner of speaking, and you can see the moment with such pure clarity that minor details you never would have noticed are recalled. Where all sounds are magnified to an extent where the slow flutter of wings seems as roaring waves in your ears. Everything down to the smallest whisper gains a mythical quality, something from a tale that can never again be repeated. The colors blur and then focus, leaving a vivid memory in their place . . .

Duo’s eyes . . . I’ve always known what color they are; they’re purple. Amethyst. Sometimes they’re so dark they’re almost black, or a blue-violet to rival the deepest of skies. It’s simple to persuade oneself that if you look into his eyes long enough, you might see the stars . . . not a dim reflection as a mirror would produce, but deep, shining lights that can only be viewed in the darkest of skies.

All things in the temple change, and so did his eyes, appearing endless in depth, much like the universe seen in them. They faded in contrast to his skin, a darker shade than black can be, stretching out into eternity. Flushed to the point of illness, Duo’s skin had a heated look to it, almost as if he was underneath a red light. His hair shared the same burgundy tint, almost as if I looked at him through an evenly colored piece of glass.

He meant to kill me, I could tell, but I knew better now than to take anything in this strange place lightly. Any other time, I might have made some remark against his ability to do so, despite the fact he could match me in any weapon but the sword. He might well defeat me, if he had his favored weapon. He’s always seemed to favor the scythe above the others, even his gun. I believe it holds some sort of symbolism to him, after all, he calls himself Shinigami, and death is often represented as a scythe bearing being of supreme beauty, or decay. The former holds more truth for Duo than the latter, but never should one assess beauty by outward appearances. Death is always seen in black, and black is all colors. White might seem a more apt color for it, but it’s always black. Whereas black is everything, white is nothing at all. It is the absence of all colors, pure, clear, and unending, much like death itself, in one aspect.

He’s a mockery of death, if he can be called so. He is so unceasingly alive it’s become his trademark; he’s never seen without that smile of his, even in times of great importance. He’s not as gentle as Quatre is, but neither is he ruthless, and any other time, I’d trust him with my life. But I could not trust him here.

It’s said that you’re never more alive than when you are upon your deathbed, that life is never appreciated until it’s almost lost. And death, death is never more alive than when it kills.

Obsidian orbs seemed to glow vibrantly, flaring intensely against the bleak shadows of the chamber. Shadows lengthened and disappeared, fleeing the radiance of Duo’s light. I can’t begin to explain it . . . it’s beyond words, beyond thought and comprehension.

The human language is not a flexible thing, despite all our effort; we can no more describe the full beauty of life in a word than we can fly. Despite that, we’ve found ways around our flightless state of being; after all, we’ve developed machines that can take us past any height a true bird can achieve. But we cannot fly without some sort of assistance, and we cannot describe life, no matter how many words we use. Of course we might attempt it, but life, like all things, is different for each person.

He’d hardly given me any time to react before things started speeding up again. Duo wasn’t the same, that was abundantly clear, but the entire temple thus far had been nothing but one surprise after another. Light surrounded his lithe form, but it wasn’t due to outward interference, but some internal radiance, exploding into color that was not color. It was beyond that, beyond sight. White, silver, gold, and sapphire . . . those colors and those that have no names in any tongue manifested in his slight figure, inspiring the image of a divine saint enveloped in holy light.

No, he was not the same.

I couldn’t stand to look at him for long; the intense light was too much for my already strained eyes. At first, it was the darkness of this room, and then this . . . unexplainable light. It was an effective strategy, especially when preformed in high contrasting areas. The human eye can only stand so much, and this, was beyond that point. Due partially to my training, it only took a few moments to even partially recover my sight, but so much can happen within that amount of time. One single moment. These events were composed of hundreds of moments; all starting with one . . . the importance cannot be described.

I’d assumed he would help me, and in assuming this, perhaps I made the biggest mistake of all. I’d made mistakes before, but none of this magnitude, not at all. He’d said he would help, but would he? Not now, surely . . . he had offered, the fact remained, though untrustworthy it may be, it remained.

I do not claim to know Duo, and I shall make no assumptions of his character and how he may feel of certain things. But this, this was unlike him. He’d threatened me before, of course; it was in his nature to tease. But none of those times had he been serious. None.

The candle, with its flickering flame and tame beauty doesn’t compare in the least to the wild fire of the plains. Its exhilarating dance of destruction is a terrifyingly hypnotic experience, and one you shall never forget, if you are fortunate enough to witness it and survive. The candle flame sways as it dances, performing a mockery of the deadly dance of the wild fire. It flickers, and it stretches, and it can become the birth of a truly deadly fire, should it escape the confinements of glass and beeswax.

Light. Illuminating the darkness and dispelling all shadows, it was unavoidable. And that light was Duo’s. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe, and for one moment, time flowed backwards. Filling my ears, the roar of fire could not be ignored; it filled my existence with its light, its sound. Striking before I could react, the flame was something I could not harm, not with my sword, nor was it something I could protect myself against.

The fabrics were shifting and breaking, and reality turned its cheek as he struck. None of this seemed real; it was if I walked a dream, where nothing could truly touch me, nor gain complete control. But dreams do not hurt. They do not see, and most importantly they do not feel. The wind howled in my ears, blocking out all other sounds and fire filled my gaze.

Duo. The fire . . . it was . . . it eradicated all but itself; it was there, and nothing else. Striking out at my unprotected torso, the heat was intense, like nothing I’d ever experienced. It was not the searing pain of a sword, nor was it the internal ache of bruised tissue. It burned. Unlike natural burns, it radiated from the inside, filling my entire body with heat, traveling the path of blood, spreading a slow aching pain throughout.

The temple, for all its curiosity and constant change, could not compare; for what is oddity when it has no control? And what, may I ask, can compare to inverted reality, where all you know is wrong, and all that was is backwards?

Reality sighed softly and was swept away by Fate’s relentless winds.

What was there now was not, and in its place a fiery light like no other. With one blow, I was down, but I would not give up without a fight. If my friends turned upon me with such force, nothing was left but that, nothing left, but to fight. And in fighting, reality crumbles and reality fades, whereas it once stood strong upheld by the laws of physics and balance. But the scales were weighted, or so it seemed, by fate.

Attacking with a force similar to that of the other creatures, he stopped. It may have been a match in agility and strength, but not in strategy. It fought with tactics I’d seen twice before in this temple; as had the Stalfos Knights and the wolf creatures; it had no thought for anything but pain. For nothing but hurting its intended victim in the way it had been hurt.

The fire being may have had Duo’s appearance, but it was not the same. It lacked his personality, his wit and cleverness, and the finer details both physical and emotional his human form possessed. These seemingly small characteristics make the very essence of Duo, and these smoldering obsidian orbs replaced his brilliant amethyst, as tangled locks of brilliant flame replaced silken chestnut strands.

Free of confinements, his hair framed his body in a tangled web of fire that never ceased its moving. Unlike the other foes I’d fought in this temple, however, there was no pattern to Duo’s fighting, but rather an endless river of pain and heat. He slowed with each strike, almost as if this was paining him. Lifting my sword to the newly presented challenge, I gracefully stepped out of his range.

“Is that it?” I shouted, glaring in outrage at the hovering spirit. Though he was a good five meters above my head, I could tell he wavered an instant in his attack. Glowering at him, I continued. “Is that all? I have better things to do than to fight you!”

:You refused what was offered,: Duo’s voice rang clear in my mind, soft as a whisper yet all encompassing. :And so,: he smiled coolly, a chill expression unsuited to his face. :So now you die.:

I scoffed. “We’ve been through this already. You’ve been insulted, so now I have to die.” I sneered, locking eyes with the fire being. “You’re being perfectly childish, Duo.” I announced coldly. “I refuse to fight you until you come to your senses! I have better things to do,” I repeated, pointedly making my way towards the nearest exit.

With a cry of anger and defiance, Duo struck out again, barely missing my vulnerable neck and chest. This was most undoubtedly not the best outfit to be wearing, though if offered mobility, it was hardly a respectable barrier between the flames and myself. I’d expected he’d do that, and had moved barely a moment prior to his attack; it would only serve to infuriate him further, but as I’d already guessed, he was not exempt from fatigue. These attacks, all of which so close together with little time to recover, was taking out of him. Knowing this, he couldn’t hope to stand much longer.

Again he swept, again he bent, over and over again until neither of us could move with much grace or agility. Despite that, I kept my breath even and, straining against the urge to slump in defeat. The fire being hovered closer to the ground then before, barely a meter above rather than five.

“Will you help me find the others or not?” I asked, calmly meeting his gaze without flinching. “We need to find them . . .” Seeing his uncertainty, I pushed on, hoping the mention of our comrades would evoke some sort of response. “We need to find Quatre, Trowa, and Heero.”

:Heero . . .?: His mind’s voice lost its previous aloofness, bringing back a small portion of the Duo I remembered. He seemed, different, all the same, but not quite so drastically as before. He seemed . . . lost and hurt, but confusion reigned supreme over the lesser two emotions. :Wufei?: He asked hesitantly. :What’s—I don’t—:

Sadness, defeat . . . anger, betrayal . . . emotions that could neither be named nor explained run through my head in a chaotic swirl of helplessness and color. It was as if I were being pulled into Duo’s mind; that the barriers between were broken. Unbeknownst, I moaned aloud, putting a step’s distance between Duo and myself. Abruptly he pulled away, leaving both the barrier and my sanity intact.

Part 7

Moaning softly, Duo fell from the air even as I recovered, and with his fall, the light retreated, giving my vision a brief reprieve from sight. I lay still for a moment, listening to his shaky breathing from the stone floor.

Somehow I found the strength to raise my head, and I slowly lifted my aching body off the stone floor. Duo lay in the center of the room, his hair free of its confining braid, spilling down his lithe form like so much water. It was difficult to believe such a delicate boy could have caused so much pain, but reason stood against assumption; he was a Gundam pilot, and that in itself was enough to disprove appearances. We all know this, but our enemies do not. Children are often told by their parents not to ‘judge a book by its cover,’ and yet our enemies cannot remember even this simple lesson. Perhaps small children are more intelligent than adults after all.

As I watched him, I took the time to straiten my silks, waiting impatiently for him to get up as well. Violet eyes remained closed for a moment longer as he breathed. Finally, he looked up, and in doing so he recaptured my spirit once again. "I will help you," he whispered, the lost child alone in the woods. Rising unsteadily to his feet, he wavered like a candle in the wind. I didn't move, doing my best to appear distant and remote and he sighed at my response, but didn't say anything else.

"What just happened?" I asked curtly. Wincing at the sound of my voice, I didn't bother to elaborate. I'd meant to sound understanding or comforting, but I suppose I can't manage even that simple feat.

Flinching at the question, Duo turned away from my gaze, making a pretense of lifting a hand to his head, absently straitening the tangled locks, but the job apparently was too difficult, and his hand dropped back to his side. "The door's this way," He said in the same manner, walking off even as he began to speak.

I scowled at his obvious attempt to avoid my questioning, but didn't peruse the topic any further. If he didn't want to talk, so be it. I certainly wasn't going to provoke another outburst; not after that last experience. In all truth, the wound Duo had inflicted was what stalled any retorts forthcoming. Slowly I put a hand to my side, gently pulling cloth from skin, pushing any thoughts of Duo from my mind. He can wait, I thought irritably. This cannot.

True friends are hard to find, and when you find them, they're not to be thrown away. Bonds of friendship are often forged between soldiers, and for many reasons. A soldier who cannot relate to his comrades would not hesitate to desert, and many a soldier might die for that one’s decision. Bonds are often formed from necessity; humans as a whole possess the need to be accepted. Alienation is a terrible thing to experience, particularly in warfare. As soldiers, we cannot escape hurting someone, if only ourselves, or someone caught in the crossfire. It’s impossible to avoid causing harm during war. And so one could argue than we cannot avoid hurting each other, despite our precautions. However, I never expected any of my friends to injure me for no reason.

Whatever their reasoning was, I still hurt because of it. The tissue will become inflamed if I don't keep an eye on it, I noted. If I couldn't spare the time to bandage the wound, I had less time than I'd realized. My own shirt was little more than rags, but I had nothing else to wrap the wound with. Sighing, I knelt as I pulled the shirt from my sweat soaked body, keeping the sword within easy reach.

Duo sighed in mock annoyance, a familiar glint coming to his eyes. “Put that back on, Wufei,” he began with a grin. “We don’t have time to play games,”

I scowled briefly at him, still wary of his behavior. “If I don’t get this covered,” I said between clenched teeth, wishing vaguely that I had some sort of medicine to ease the pain. “It will get infected, and cause even further delay in our current situation.”

In one aspect, I was glad the wound was made by fire, for that would make it clean at least. I suppose it was also a good thing it did hurt; the worst kinds of burns are the ones you can’t feel, the burns that eradicate the nerve cells.

Making his way swiftly to where I crouched, the boy paled noticeably at my wound. His eyes, as I have previously stated, are quite expressive. However, they appeared now as flat and emotionless as the eyes of a doll. It lasted for a moment only, and they were filled then with such pain and emptiness I was reminded again of the link exchanged between us, and the terrible emotions he’d felt then resurfaced.

“Wufei, I—I’m sorry. Did I . . .?” He stuttered, failing miserably to keep up the cheerful front he’d shown just a moment before. He sighed, his voice as small as a child’s. “Did I . . . hurt you?” A pitiful attempt at a smile immerged, soft laughter following. “That was a stupid question.”

I sighed, frowning at his response. What would be preferable? I wondered. This, or . . .? I stopped, unwilling to tread so far in unfamiliar territory. “It wasn’t your fault,” I muttered, turning away.

He laughed again, the same hallow, empty laughter of a broken spirit. “Yes it was, Wufei.” He faltered for a moment, undecided. “I remember what I did,” he took a breath waveringly, shaking with suppressed emotion. “I remember what I felt,” he whispered, almost too soft to be heard.

The shared memory resurfaced then, the anger, the pain . . . The heat of the fire seemed to regenerate itself, and my side ached in response, a warm flush spreading throughout my body. The Reaper stood before me, and it was clothed in neither riches nor rags, but in a shock of flame and violet orbs gone black.

Metal screamed as it was pulled quickly from its sheathe, shaking me from my dazed frame of mind. I looked up to see Duo had pulled his shirt from his back, tearing the thin material into long strips as he attempted to regain his composure. I opened my mouth to protest, but Duo spoke before I could. “Silk won’t soak up the blood if it starts bleeding, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not slip in a puddle of the stuff.” He managed a brief grin, winking at my expression.

I sighed, and said nothing more, allowing him to bind the wound. He finished the job quickly and neatly, allowing more mobility than I might have managed, tight enough to stay in its position, but loose so as not to irritate the wound. “You’ve had practice,” I noted, taking in his work with satisfaction.

Duo grinned and nodded as he tossed the silk shirt at me. “You might want to keep that.” He offered a quick smile, rising to his feet and offering me a hand. “Maybe not to wear, but it might come in handy later. And yes, I’ve had practice. I used to help Sister Helen sometimes . . . after that, it became something of a necessity.” He smiled softly, the peaceful expression replacing the hurt and pain. For an instant I was reminded of a kitten, sleepy and content with its dish of cream. I smiled at the thought, and waited. “Later, I got into the habit of helping some of the other guys as well. Mostly Heero, when he’d let me . . .” The soft smile disappeared, and his familiar grin replaced it. “Enough time on memory lane! We’re wasting time.”

“We should go,” I agreed, looking towards the door he’d indicated earlier. Bouncing cheerful in front of me, Duo reassumed the cheerful attitude I had come to cherish. I followed more slowly behind him, readjusting my sword as I went. Duo waited impatiently by the door, humming softly to himself as he drummed his fingers on its frame. As I drew nearer, he stopped his antics, and starred at the beautiful weapon.

“Where did you get that?” He asked softly, looking up with a hunger in his eyes I’d never seen before. He knew this weapon, and he feared it, wanted it more than I could say. I paused, looking from the sword and back to him, wondering what it held to attract his notice so.

“Do you recognize it?” I asked casually, relaxing my grip as I coolly met his eyes. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” I added, looking at the sword admiringly.

“You wouldn’t have,” Duo snorted. “There’s no other like it in the world,” His voice was harsher than I remembered it, coarse with emotion I couldn’t describe. I looked up quickly, trying to look past the surface to the deeper emotions hidden by the driving hunger for the weapon. His face was framed by tangled locks, the walls of stone cast shadows across his face, hiding his eyes from view. I moved slightly to my left, easing into a battle stance in case of an attack.

“I suppose not,” I remarked offhandedly. “What do you know of it?” I held the sword loosely, testing its balance as we spoke.

“That’s not important,” he snarled, catching my attention before. Looking up, I attempted to catch his gaze, but I might as well have not even tried. “Give it to me.” He demanded, looking at nothing but the blade.

“I’ve had more training with a blade than you, Duo.” I reminded him, smiling slightly. “Why, may I ask, do you think you should have it?”

Tearing his gaze from the blade, terrified violet eyes met my own, even as he began to speak his eyes pleaded with me. “It’s not important,” he said finally, turning back towards the door. “We should go,” In moments his voice and eyes returned to normal, and we passed through the door unharmed.


Part 8

The door itself was the same as the others, a simple design etched on its surface, a silver, unadorned knob to gain access. The hallway it led to was much the same as the others as well, the walls of stone bearing an occasional torch, the ground carpeted, though still coarse. It was barely light enough to see by, and I had been working on little sleep, and so was hard pressed to keep up with Duo.

“This reminds me of a story I heard once,” Duo commented, picking his way carefully so as to avoid spider webs. He looked positively delighted at our current situation, as if he wanted nothing more than to walk hours on end through dirt and darkness. I sighed. “Sister Helen told it to me,” he continued, offhandedly pushing aside yet another web. “Or maybe it was Father Maxwell . . .? Maybe they both did.” He shrugged, and turned around, nearly causing me to run into him. I scowled, and motioned for him to keep moving. Fortunately or not, he took that as a signal to tell his story.

Flipping his hair out of his face for what had to have been the twentieth time in ten minutes, he paused momentarily to gather his thoughts. “A long time ago, before the colonies had ever been designed, there lived a man.”

“Maxwell,” I gritted my teeth, sternly reminding myself not to strangle him. “What does this--?”

Duo raised one finger to his lips, widening his eyes a trifle. I scowled, and stared in response. “I’m telling a story. No interrupting!” He grinned, running a hand across the stonework as we walked. “Well, as I was saying,” He stopped a moment in his telling to glare at me, amusement lurking in his eyes. “This man wasn’t just a man. He was the chief commander of a brigade, and one of the elite at that.” He smiled sadly, and said nothing for several minutes. Although impatient to continue, I waited also.

“The men jokingly called themselves the light brigade, after the poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson. Despite the fact the original light brigade lost their battle, they were still honored by the people . . . more or less, anyway. The man didn’t say a thing to soldiers about that; he didn’t seem to care. Perhaps he didn’t know of their self-given nickname, or maybe he figured it wouldn’t do any harm for the men to call themselves that.” He paused again, looking at the ceiling warily. Slowly I lifted my gaze, dreading what he might have seen.

“What is it?” I asked slowly, searching the hallway once more.

“It’s . . . nothing.” He replied. “Just my imagination.” Still he did not move. I sighed, and motioned him on. Once again, he misinterpreted, and assumed I meant for him to continue his tale. “The days were peaceful then, there wasn’t an organization controlling the world, not even a tyrant ruling a small country. Their world, for the most part, was at peace. Of course, there were always battles. Always have been, always will be.” He smiled there, once again pulling his hair out of his face. I was beginning to see why he might like to keep it up; out of its braid, it was little more than a nuisance.

“Well?” I asked finally, tiring of his attempts to fix his hair. Duo looked up in slight surprise, as if I’d interrupted a thought, a daydream. The corners of his mouth lifted minutely in some small semblance of a smile, and he nodded to himself.

“The country’s peace didn’t last,” he began, his voice trailing off in search of words. Interested, but trying not to appear so, I leaned against the wall. Shadows played across Duo’s features as sunlight flickers through glass, fully visible and prone to change after periods of time.

Shadows . . . they’re opposites of light, or more correctly, the absence of it in one particular space. But shadows exist in the sunlit lands, the place of light and life. Shadows are formed where the light hits at an angle, and from that, a dark and beautiful creation is wrought. The shadow is a pale familiar form of an object, flat and unemotional, devoid of features, of the beauty we call life. Shadows mock the very life they mirror, inverted realities in which a darker shade than black is possible.

“The so-called Light Brigade was called into war, and the one man who could have saved them, let them fall.” Duo’s calm voice interrupted my musings, shattering them as one might break glass. The world was not what it seemed, particularly here. His words seeped into my thoughts, pulling dread from the deepest corners of my heart. “They were called to the Valley of Hylia[1], that which was a good week’s journey south if they made good time. The men were not disheartened by the march, quite the contrary; they seemed to revel in it. Hardly a man was dismayed at the first battle they’d seen in . . . quite some time.” He looked at me with his violet eyes, and the world slowed its pace. The truth of life was reflected there, and beauty knew no name.

What would it be like, I wondered, to live in a time of peace? I brushed the thought aside in favor of observation, and looked again at the hallway. It was not one, I realized, but many. All conjoined hallways in which you must find the proper path—to go left, or right, it didn’t seem to matter. Duo led us through the maze with ease, and I soon realized that there was no way for me to find my way out again. We were lost in a maze, and Duo was the only one who knew the way out. But to which ‘out’ he’d take me remained unknown. Perhaps even to him.

Duo’s eyes at last ceased their wandering, and he began again, to speak. “The first day the brigade reached the Valley of Hylia, camps were set, and trenches were dug. In one single day, the Light Brigade was ready for an attack. Indeed, it was a marvelous sight to behold, and the men’s leader had everything to do with it. Their beds no longer seemed hard and unyielding, but soft as a maiden’s kiss, and sleep came easily to those in the brigade.

“The sentries were hard pressed to keep their eyes open, and the war party that met on the hillside unanimously agreed to hold the meeting when all were awake and open to suggestion. But the man was unwilling to sleep so soon, to leave work for another time was other men’s business, not his own. Through strength of will, or perhaps, chance, he alone remained awake that night.” His voice had long lost the dramatic flare he’d begun with, and what was left made the tale seem all the more realistic. I took it for fact, and not fiction after all.

Such things you say, I thought. What, I wonder, do you mean?

“When the man rose, the sun had also just risen, barely showing above the hill’s barren top. As was his custom, he summoned not a servant, but took himself to see and rouse his men.” The torch nearest us flickered and died, leaving us between light and forever in darkness. Duo seemed not to notice, for he did not move. “What he found stalled him. Not a man had risen, and not a man stirred at his call for attention.

“Dread filled his heart, and he moved slowly, almost delicately, past the forms of the still sleeping men, and to his second’s tent. He found him still sleeping on his bedroll, looking peaceful as a dream. Staring for a moment, the man then strode to his second’s bedside, clasping one strong hand over his shoulder.” Duo stopped a moment, and looked again at me. Perhaps he saw more clearly in the darkness than I, for I could make out only his eyes, glinting as they were with the reflected firelight. “What do you think will happen?” He asked softly, taking me by surprise.

I stared for a moment, unable to fathom an answer. “Ah—that is—how should I know? It’s your story!” I felt my face reddening under his stare, and only when he began laughing could I tell he was amused. It was good to hear him laugh, but it wasn’t the same. Something was missing from it, and both of us knew it.

“All right,” He surrendered cheerfully. “I’ll finish it,” amusement still shone clearly in his voice, but in a moment it left again. “It seemed the sun had set again, that the light of chill morning had no place here, in this valley of dreamers. The wind whispered lies, singing songs of mourning to rival those of the dead. His second, a man of near forty years of age, did not react to his touch. His skin was colder than ice, and it was then the man realized he no longer inhabited the world of the living.” Duo’s skin, I remembered, had not been cold. It had been warm to the touch, soft and unyielding. That brief moment he’d embraced me, our lips had touched--before I’d pulled away, meeting passion at sword point once again. I sighed.

“Startled, the man moved from the tent, hastening to find someone awake. In his haste, he tripped over the still form of what he mistook first for a young man, just out of childhood. He soon realized the boy was a child still, not nearly old enough to be one of his men. The youth’s golden skin was complimented by midnight black hair, dressed as he was, in a silken shirt of the finest materials, he couldn’t be comfortable. The morning was a chill one, and the damp had already set in.

“Beside the boy, an older man lay, both sleeping peacefully. The man put one hand on elder’s shoulder, just as he had his second, and again, found no life. Hesitating to put a hand on the child, he turned away. Becoming alarmed, the man went from body to body, and yet he found none of the living in the Valley of Hylia. He alone remained alive, and the Light Brigade, broken in one night’s peaceful slumber.”

I raised an eyebrow at his choice of words, and started to move. Duo’s hand caught my shoulder, and I could almost see a smile form on his face. “I’m not done yet,” he said softly. Startled, I nodded, giving him leave to continue. “The man’s cries of attention went unheard, the ears of the dead pay little attention to the living. And who of the living pays mind to the mad? The man turned his back on his men, leaving the chill bodies to their peaceful sleep. Not a man remained without a smile, and not a man remained alive.

“‘For whom do you speak?’ a voice called to the man. Startled, the man turned, wondering who among the dead dared speak. He saw only the boy-child, dressed in his silks of white, a look of calm curiosity upon his face. ‘Are you alive?’ the man asked, his voice rising almost to a shout. The boy only smiled. ‘What has become of my men?’ he asked, anger and despair seeping into his query. ‘They sleep.’ The boy said. ‘Can you not tell?’ The man opened his mouth again, but no sound came out. Again, he tried to speak, but only one word came forth. ‘Why?’ The boy’s smile grew. ‘Theirs not to reason why,’ he said. ‘Theirs but to do,’ his eyes of black closed, and the smile disappeared. ‘Or die.[2]’” In the darkness, I could not see his face. But I knew he smiled, but his eyes did not.

“We’ve come to the door,” he said finally, taking my hand and pulling me through. The door was like all the others, plain and unadorned. Like all the others, it lacked a simple look. We entered into a room of darkness, and the door slammed shut. The light remained within the halls; none touched this room of darkness.

I scowled in irritation, and turned to my guide once more. “I can’t see a thing in here. Can’t you . . . light a torch? Do something,” I said. Immediately, I regretted my words, and wished I’d stopped to think before asking. Duo laughed softly, and stepped away.

“Let there be light,” he whispered. And the world exploded once more.


[1] Anyone recognize the name? *Grins*
[2] Quote from "The Charge of the Light Brigade" The actual quote reads as follows:

"Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die;"
~Exert from Lord Alfred Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade"

If anyone's interested in reading the poem in its intirety, just e-mail me . . .

Part 9

The resulting explosion was blinding, as if it was not fire that caused the light, but the flare of a dying sun.

Exploding stars . . . the chaos resulting from that one event has been said to create worlds, and destroy them. Stardust. Is that what the Earth is? There have been countless theories as to the creation of the world, the one that came to mind is simply that; stardust. It states that in the death of one world, another is created. Perhaps not immediately after, but eventually, the remains of one becomes another. It all starts with birth, leading on to life, and eventually death, fallowed by rebirth.

That is the way of things in nature; a tree sprouts, it lives and flourishes, and it dies, giving way to new life. In the eyes of the people, trees live forever, in a way. Is it, or is it not so? ‘Do not belittle the life of a tree by saying such,’ one might say. ‘To say a tree lives forever, when it does in truth die, is like saying a man may live forever through his children.[3]’ Maybe so, but the birth of a man requires two. A tree does not. Decide for yourself, I shall not make the choice for you.

The light gave way to dimness, and at last my aching eyes were given a brief respite. As the light cleared, I saw not a fiery entity of heat and rage, but a boy of eloquent beauty and supreme surprise. With a look of vague discomfort, he stepped back, and without the added weight, the footswitch rose, and with its ascent, the door was barred.

Looking distinctly annoyed, Duo glared at the steel shafts before turning away. Sighing wearily, I turned my mind to more important matters, and placed a steady hand on his shoulder. Duo half turned at my action, grinning cheerfully.

“Yes?” He asked teasingly, drawing out the vowel in a fashion that can only be described as childish. I frowned minutely, but declined replying. “Need something?” he raised his eyebrows inquiringly, and it was I who turned this time.

Seeking distraction, I found it in my surroundings once more. Looking at the earthen walls in unfeigned interest, I traced the blocks of earth with one hand as I spoke. “You didn’t do that, then?” I asked finally, waiting as patiently as my tired mind would allow.

“No,” He grinned, laughter showing clearly in his violet eyes. The past can burry you, or it can help you become what you must. It appeared the latter was true for this amethyst-eyed boy. “That was entirely an accident,”

He looked briefly at the doors, then to the four brazens in the center of the room. The furthermost torch alone remained lit, the golden flame unwavering, causing the golden brazen to appear as liquid. The designs were etched clearly enough to avoid fading in one’s memory, but not enough to attract attention[4]. The intricate designs mimicked that of falling leaves, though spiders’ bodies hid amidst the delicate greenery, their still forms taking on what could almost be considered a frail splendor.

“Wufei?” Duo asked quietly, looking around once more. There were two doors in the room, both of them barred by the mysterious shafts with pointed ends. Ignoring Duo’s question, I moved closer to inspect the iron bars blocking our passage. “Uh—I wouldn’t get too close,” He warned, immediately I took a step back, noting the stains coloring the ends of the spear-like bars. I was more than willing to bet that those particular stains did not come from age[5].

Duo cleared his throat, bringing my thoughts back to the present situation once again. “Wufei, is something bothering you?” He asked finally, eagerly almost. I raised an eyebrow, calmly looking at him again. He fidgeted under my stare, his wide violet eyes appearing wider still for their . . . fright? I frowned, and turned back to studying the room.

“No,” I riposted, my hands tracing the wall again. “Why do you ask?” Curiosity drew the question from me more than necessity did. Perhaps it was some sort of sixth sense, but I doubt that. We’ve learned to trust each other’s instincts, although I wasn’t entirely sure I still could; not with their previous behaviors.

“Well, because something’s bothering me.” He said hurriedly, limiting the distance between us by a step. “I can’t see it, but I sense there’s a thirst for blood looming all around us . . .[6]” he shuddered, taking my arm. Not, I noted with slight amusement, my sword arm. I shrugged out his grasp, intending to examine the room’s opposite door.

I wasn’t given the chance.

Fire. Because of Duo, it was more than just an element to me. It was a deadly weapon, but it was an eternal beauty that always remains. From the beginning, there was fire, and in the end, it shall remain. Shall the world be consumed in fire, or ice? Whereas fire can offer a quick death, short of becoming incased in it, ice offers a slow and painful demise.

Circles are eternal, unbroken. Is it for this reason that we pledge our lives and our love with rings? A wedding ring, a class ring . . . all circles, all unbound, all unbroken. Despite this, vows can be broken, and lies said in place of truths. A symbol only, though the circle remains intact, the same cannot always be said for the promise.

They were two things ever lasting, eternal and undying, in their own ways, the both of them. A ring of fire surrounded me, rising higher than I am tall, unbroken and imprisoning. My back was to Duo for no more than an instant, and again I faced him, only to find he was not the cause of it. Baffled, Duo stared for a moment, his expression clear even through the flames. I was about to open my mouth when Duo frantically signaled me of the attack forthcoming. Again I sighed, waiting for whatever monster that might attack.

A small, slender figure stood before me, no larger than a child of ten. Its’ slight form was concealed in a heavy cloak of dusky material, its doll like hands and wiry legs were the only flesh showing. These had a faintly green tint to them, bearing a resemblance to rotted meat that made my stomach turn.[7]

The cloak hid its face from view, concealing all features save one. Its eyes alone remained in sight. The emerald orbs glowed with an inner light, illuminating nothing. “Master,” it said, its’ voice oddly childish, but cold in a way no child’s voice could be. A single scimitar was drawn, directed opposite my throat. “You called,”

Something flickered in those eyes of jade, and compassion knew no name in this realm of the dead. “What are you?” [8] it asked coldly, its dead voice and cold stare more than enough to chill the blood. A second scimitar slid from the depths of its cloak, and the childlike thing flipped up and away from my naked blade.

“Oh,” Duo muttered. “Shit,”

I could certainly agree with that sentiment.

I may have been through a lot these past few hours, but I was far from beaten. A swift turn spared me the child’s assault, its blades barely missing my vulnerable side. Faster than I could react in my state of fatigue, it avoided my sword with an ease I envied. It seemed to move as easily as a piece of debris being blown about the on the breeze, but its expert precision belittled that thought.

“Maxwell!” I fumed, spinning about as I raised my sword arm. “Stop circling and do something!”

“Like what?” He shouted, throwing up his hands in frustration. “Roast?”

I scowled, making my annoyance evident in my tone. “Why don’t you--?” Duo laughed callously in reply, nearly causing me to falter in my attack.

“You think I meant to do that?” He retorted. I could almost hear the scowl in his voice, those violet eyes of his shining with suppressed rage. “I can’t control it!” That stalled me one precious moment, and the demon child took advantage of my fault immediately. My silks acquired yet another tear, this one neat and precise.

The cloaked figure may have been agile, but its attacks varied not in the least. It consisted of two attacks only, I noted. First it would flip up as it had previously shown, landing neatly behind me, outside of the ring of fire. It would then come at me in a running leap, gathering enough force to impale me if I didn’t move. If timed correctly, a back flip could neatly save me that fate, likewise opening a chance to strike out at my attacker. The second attack was more direct.

It lacked the skill of a true swordsman, relying on speed and force of the blow to win the match. With a quick blow, the childlike form crumpled, sinking to its knees as its scimitars vanished[9]. It stared up at me, coolly meeting my gaze with its mirrored eyes. “R-regretable.” It whispered, resuming its role as child. Its small voice truly seemed regretful, but clearly promising defeat should it be allowed. It would not suffer this insult again, the glassy eyes told me. “Although my rival, you were spectacular.” [10] The cold voice seemed to remember that of a life past, a pale shadow of what it once had been. In death, it could only remember. In life, it could become. “I shall take my bow by opening my heart and revealing my wisdom,

“Should you loose those that lead you, do not loose heart. When all is lost not what it seems, listen and you will hear it. The sound of his wings shall return you to your path. When that which has guided you on your journey is no more, listen. The sound of wings . . .”[11] Its flat, unemotional voice rose from the depths of despair. Locking eyes with me once more, it began to speak again. “Belief or disbelief resides within you.

“To die without leaving a corpse . . . that is the way of us Garo.” [12] Its slight form erupted into flames of jade, and the circle was no more.

[You're done now.]

[3] Taise said that . . . *grins* Thought I'd annoy him and quote him on it. "AG!" says Taise.
[4] I've looked at that thing over and over again, and I see two things when I look at it; one, floral designs with a spider on it. Two, floral designs with a lily-ish thing. The torch that stays lit is always gold . . . *Grins* Don't know why.
[5] I think that's creepy. Had to mention the blood stains on the spikes . . . Ewwwww . . . *Grins* Taise and I noticed that once and it just makes you think . . . *Makes face* I think it's gross.
[6] Direct quote from Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. That's what Tatle says, only she adds "Don't you have a mask that reveals the unseen?"
[7] And so the Garo makes an apperance . . . Creepy little things.
[8] Actually, that's not what it says. *Grins* I just changed it a bit . . .
Quote from Zelda:
"Master! You called!" [a pause] "...!!! What are you???"
Hehehe . . . that's what it really says. I decided it wouldn't fit the style to do that though . . . so . . . myeh. Do you think that takes out of the Garo's character?
[9] Actually, it falls undignifiedly on its rump. *Grins* I couldn't do it an injustice. *Grins* Not with Wufei watching.
[10] 'Nother direct quote. No changes to that one.
[11] NOT a direct quote. *Grins* One thing it actually DID say is--*Gets wacked by Taise* "They don't care." Oh, fine.
[12] In the words of the Master Garo, "Die, I shall, leaving no corpse." *Insert creepy laugh* "That is the law of us Garo."


Part 10

Fire and shadow . . . Much of this temple seemed to center around these two elements. Nothing seemed quite right, and yet everything seemed as it should, in this realm of nightmares. Darkness knew no bounds, hindered only by the flames that light the way. Hindered by Duo’s light, the fiery essence within that made him who he was.

“What . . .?” I asked slowly, looking enquiringly at my guide. For once, words failed me, and I was left without a way to describe what it was I felt . . . if I felt at all. The Garo’s words hung clearly in my mind, ‘The sound of wings . . .’ what did it mean?

Duo’s voice cut through my thoughts, and I realized then that he had been speaking for a while yet. “—Think?” he asked, raising his eyebrows in an inquiring fashion. I blinked, unsure what to say.

“What?” I demanded sharply, shifting my sword to a more comfortable position. Duo sighed in mock annoyance, rubbing his temples as if to ward of a headache. I ignored this gesture of annoyance, waiting for him to explain.

With a look of annoyance, Duo raised an eyebrow at my stance. I hadn’t moved from the center of the room, standing with my sword to my side. “Damn it, Wufei!” His voice held that familiar ring of impatience, but it lacked real anger. Perhaps he was tiring as well . . . “Your not paying any attention to me.” He sighed, a frown of real regret adorning his face. “You don’t listen, you don’t think! It’s like talking to a dream . . . you’re not all the way here, Wufei.” He turned away from me then, making a pretense of studying the torch, much as I had done, only a few minutes before. Had it really been that short of a battle? It seemed so much longer to me . . .

“Do you want to get us killed?” he asked softly, his voice uncommonly passionate. “Do you want to get them killed?” he left no doubt in my mind who ‘they’ were. The other pilots . . . I flushed guiltily, wishing, for once, that the darkness covered me. “It seems like it . . . you’re only really here when you’re fighting.” He sighed, turning to face me once more. “Is that it? Do you want to fight me? It seems it’s the only way to get through to you right now . . .” his voice trailed off, and the passion died away.

I wanted nothing more than to take him up in my embrace, to assure him I did not wish his death—but that was not for me to do. It wouldn’t help our relationship, nor would it further our current position. I opened my mouth to say something, but the words never left my mouth. “We need to get these torches lit,” Duo said tiredly, looking around for some sort of maneuverable torch.

Casting another glance around the room, I frowned in concentration, wondering if what I saw was truth. In the corner of the room, there were two green leaves. Wandering over towards it, I stepped closer to get a better look at it. Much to my surprise, the plant reared up at my approach, near throwing its blue head at me. The teeth it possessed looked more than sharp enough to tear at flesh, let alone houseflies.

“Well,” I murmured, shifting my sword more comfortably in my grasp. “That’s where all the flies have gotten to . . .” Lifting the blade to a comfortable angle, I broke the plant’s lifeline with one quick blow. It took me as no great surprise to find the monster erupted into blue flames, leaving a stick in its place. I blinked at the stick, hesitantly picking it up, looking inquiringly at Duo.

He laughed at my expression, grinning widely. “You killed a Deku Baba!” He grinned in amusement, his appearance befitting that of a five year old on their birthday. “Light the torches,” he suggested, waving hand in the general direction of the room.

Looking at the stick dubiously, I walked neatly over to the golden torch, thrusting the stick in the flames. To my surprise, the stick caught fire almost immediately, as did the two other torches I managed to reach. The stick turned to ash before I could reach the remaining torches, and I had to return to the Deku Baba, as Duo had called it, to gather a few more sticks. It regenerated, I learned, not long after I killed the thing.

“It’ll give you a Deku Stick if you cut it vertically, and Deku Nuts if you cut it horizontally.” Duo had said, demonstrating as he spoke. I sighed, and gathered a few sticks before attempting to light the torches again. Passing one of the Deku Sticks to Duo, we quickly lit the remaining torches, and at last, the iron bars lifted, and we were free to exit the room.

I wondered as we walked through the door, what the Garo had meant. ‘When that which has guided you on your journey is no more, listen . . .’ Duo has been my guide—he’s led me through the maze. I frowned minutely, trying to understand what it had meant . . . If it meant anything at all. Perhaps it was just toying with me—or perhaps, whatever had brought me here wanted my guide to be removed. Well, I thought. I’ll see what I can do to prevent that . . .

The door opened, revealing not another hallway—thank whatever god responsible—but a room similar to the others. It too was of similar make, the same stones I’d seen throughout the temple, dirt wedged between the tiles from countless feet walking across the smooth surface. Not so smooth now, I noticed. The course ground seemed more apparent here than any other room.

“Some things you loose . . . and some things you just give away.” Duo said softly, listening to the sound of our footsteps echo against the walls. I looked up at him in surprise, watching his amethyst eyes, looking for some sort of reason for this sudden outburst. Perhaps if the circumstances had been different, I wouldn’t have paid it much mind. But everything was different, and the world as I knew it seemed nothing more than . . . a dream.

Duo laughed softly, the both of us standing in the doorway, hesitant to walk forward. Remembering the iron bars all too clearly, it seemed as if our traveling would never end. Do you truly want it to? I wondered, finally taking courage to move ahead. In truth, I did not want to encounter the other pilots, fearful of what they were. What they may have become . . .

“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream . . .” Duo sang softly, his light voice floating up from behind me, gentle as a spring breeze. I turned to look at him, but he merely grinned in response, masking whatever expression he may have been wearing. Sometimes I envy his ability to smile so . . .

“Would ya look at that,” Duo’s grin widened, if that was at all possible, a look of childish amusement coming across his face. He gestured minutely to the room in front of us, and I finally took the time to observe what lay ahead, and smiled despite myself. On the walls hung several tapestries, each one remarkably similar, but different in seemingly unimportant ways. They all depicted a landscape, each of a forest in midday, the sun shining brightly from the upper left corner, the leaves all an emerald green.

On the tapestry directly before us, there was nothing, to the left of it; a golden mist seemed to adorn the leaves, leaving a distinct taste of hidden secrets. Next to it, the mist grew thicker, a tinge of gold adorning it, the ghost of a figure haunting the background. In each tapestry thereafter, the figure grew closer still, until it revealed the figure was a man. He was a child, really, no more than fourteen years of age at the most. I sighed, wondering how it was a boy a year younger than myself could be considered a child, where I was not. Was I a child then? I smiled softly, a tinge of regret flavoring my thoughts. No, I was not . . . Things happen, during war, and things happen without it. I was needed, not as a child, but as a capable soldier. So, I grew up, just as Duo did, as did we all.

The boy was dressed in old-fashioned clothing, a tunic of russet, faded in some places, and breeches of a similar color, stained at the knees, and slightly threadbare. The hosen he wore was in good condition, with the exception of the grass and mud stains gained from stargazing, no doubt. The child’s sleeves were likewise stained, a few tears, but all in all, in good repair. He was no commoner, that was certain, but something else came to mind . . . he was a dreamer, a scholar, maybe. But not, I realized, a scholar’s son. He wore a smile of simply satisfaction I knew, but his features were unclear. I knew only he was a child, as I had never been. Not in the same way . . .

The room, however, was bare. Nothing else was overly apparent, just stone floors, and the tapestries. There wasn’t even a torch of some sort, but light seeped in anyways, though how, I couldn’t guess. Duo seemed rather amused by this, if somewhat frustrated. “We need to . . . figure out this puzzle.” He suggested, looking around the room in bewilderment.

“Puzzle?” I asked curiously, looking around once more. I scoffed lightly, perplexed. “There isn’t anything in here.” I said firmly, absently tapping my foot. Duo glared in mock annoyance, waving his hand in dismissal. “What sort of a puzzle is it?” I asked instead. Duo seemed rather amused by my question, chuckling softly. I scowled, wondering vaguely what it was I’d said.

“Nothing, nothing . . .” He laughed. “It’s just that you—oh, never mind, it’s not important.” Grinning at my reaction, Duo moved to one of the tapestries to closer examine its content, perhaps looking for some sort of clue. “As to what kind of puzzle? I don’t know . . . That’s what we’re trying to find out.”

I sighed, and joined him in his searching, choosing the opposite length to begin with, lightly resting my hand on the worn fabric. Up close, it seemed less a tapestry and more a window. They weren’t at all like the few tapestries I’d seen elsewhere, such as the ones pictured in textbooks, or displayed in museums. The fabric seemed tighter, much sturdier than those I’d previously encountered. The tapestries themselves were huge things, reaching from one wall to another, with little room to spare. They were used to keep the warmth in the castles, I was told, and to me, they were nothing less than magical. They were enormously old, and utterly the most fascinating thing I’d seen—

“Wufei—what do you think these are made of?” Duo asked curiously, running a hand across the aging fabric. I blinked, his voice startling me out of my memories, bringing me back, once again, to the present. Frowning, I looked again at the fabric, wondering what age it might be. Though old, few traces of deterioration were noticeable—every now and then a spot would become more evident, but all in all, the tapestries themselves were in good repair.

“I wouldn’t be able to tell you,” I remarked, admiring once again the time and skill put into these beautiful works of art. “I don’t know much about fabric, or tapestries, for that mater.” I sighed softly, wishing I’d paid more attention to those tapestries when I was younger. I couldn’t recall why, but for some reason we were given lessons about the things. When, where, why . . . none of these I could remember. What I could remember was far simpler—the designs, the length, and the sense of awe. The sense that even though I lived now, the person who’d made these couldn’t be alive still. Was it my first real comprehension of mortality, then? I smiled at the thought, and vaguely shook my head. No, it wasn’t . . .

Sighing, I moved on to the next tapestry, attempting to analyze what other similarities and differences were there, besides the apparent ones. Though larger than myself, these tapestries were nowhere near the size of those long forgotten tapestries of another age, and brought face to face with the child I described earlier, so to speak, I was more than slightly overwhelmed.

Hesitantly I put a hand to the tapestry, almost unsure to even touch something such as this. Perhaps I feared it would dissolve into nothing if I touched it, leaving me with nothing but a memory. My hand met cloth. I smiled slightly to myself, studying the boy’s obscured features and clothing a moment longer before moving on, reaching out to feel the texture of the tapestry depicting only leaves.

My hand met air. I stepped back, more than a little startled. I nearly lost my balance because of that, having to shift quickly to stabilize my feet.

“Wu-man?” Duo asked curiously, looking over his shoulder to see what had caused my slip up. “You feelin’ okay?”

“Fine . . .” I answered, slightly dazed. “Duo, I think I solved our puzzle.” I said simply, and walked through the wall. Duo laughed cheerfully, quickly crossing the circular room in a few quick leaps. He would have run into me had I not moved, but fortunately for us both, I’d stepped aside when I heard him running. “You could be a little more careful,” I muttered, absently, looking around once more.

This room was simple, as were all the others, boasting four golden torches like the first we’d seen, glowing brilliantly in the shadows. This door, however, was different. Whereas the others were simple and unadorned, with the exception of the locks, this one claimed a large golden skull. I blinked at the symbol, unsure what to think. Duo seemed discomforted by the sign, and the cheerfulness once again dissolved into nothing.

Duo sighed softly, a small smile coming across his face. “Congratulations, Wufei. You found the Master’s Chamber.”


"The children left a trail of bread crumbs to help them find their way back. But the birds ate the bread crumbs while the children were deep in the forest, and so there was no trail to show them the way home."
~Hansel and Gretel

Part 11

“That,” I stared at Duo in slight amusement. “Is the what?”

If I was slightly amused, Duo was near bursting with suppressed laughter. “The Master’s Chamber.” He said, his smile assuming that of an imp that has gotten the gold. Strange, how expressions so similar can bring an entirely different picture to my mind, no mater how many times he may repeat the gesture.

The Master. A strange name for any being, something I wouldn’t have considered. The Keeper, or Master, as Duo referred to him, was the guardian of this strange temple, or merely its creator? Someone would have to light the torches, why not him? Him. Could he be called him, or was he, in fact, genderless?

Nothing in the temple made sense, for all my learning, I could not decipher all its secrets. The underlying note of helplessness again caught me by surprise, leading me on once again.

“Just who is ‘the Master’?” I snapped. I must admit I never have liked the feeling of helplessness. Who would? I was, and quite probably am still, the ‘lone dragon’ as Duo would teasingly call me. When at all possible, I will rely only on my own skills, not those of others. “I haven’t heard a word from him yet!” This provoked no reaction simply read, but that too familiar smile.

That smile of hopelessness, of vulnerability eradicated all traces of the Duo I knew so well. His expressive eyes spoke of a sweet sadness, all the more melancholy for the promise that I would find out soon enough. And the experience would not be one I would enjoy.

The noise, so apparent in this temple of fire and shadows, had ceased. The constant hum of foreign insects, the misplaced and irregular chirping of crickets were silenced. The Master, whoever they were, remained unseen, but I was reminded of its presence by the very stone itself. The lack of noise seemed all the more eerie for the lack of light, reminding me of the chamber in which I’d come across Duo.

Looking at the boy, I waited for him to say something, to indicate what it was we were to do. He neither said nor did a thing, watching the gold plated door with something akin to dread in his violet eyes. Was he afraid? I don’t think so. Not of what lay in wait, not of what might occur.

Silence. That word, meaning nothing and everything at once. I could only wait for him to direct me, to lead, and for that, I was uneasy. The silence was all enveloping, spreading from the shadowy corners nearly nonexistent from the fires’ unwavering flames, waiting, it seemed, for something to happen. What, I could not, and cannot say.

The sound of cloth scraping the stone floor brought my attention again to the agile boy who’d been my guide. His tangled hair remained a snarled mess, I knew, but it looked tousled only. Like this temple, his tangled hair reflected a calmer surface than what truly was. He touched the golden skull delicately, almost fearfully, drawing back when he felt my eyes upon him.

I looked once more at the golden skull, feeling its hollowed eyes stare lifelessly at mine, through the barriers of mortal confinements, past hope. It saw . . . beyond meaning, beyond thought, past life itself. The eyes of the destroyer looked back at me, and for the first time in a long while, I knew fear.

Fear. What an odd word . . . it can never fully bring upon the emotions true fright heralds. It seems more than just an emotion; it slowly takes hold of your hand, an icy grasp to rival the winter’s bitter chill. It exists within your heart, your mind, hindering the decisions you might need to make. I had been afraid for my friends; I had been all that time. Even if they had hurt me, I realized then, I could forgive.

What is it about people that make them so . . . different? Where one might hold a grudge, another would forgive easily, or forget the injury had ever occurred. Strange, I would think. And these differences are sometimes the starting of fights. Differences . . . are they the start of petty rivalries, of arguments and . . . of wars? Perhaps . . . it is so, perhaps not. Who can say? Who can see into the human mind?

With insight, with knowledge, one might guess the motives of a killer. One might even guess right. But does that make them a murderer? No. They can see in their head, give reasons why, but not justifying the murders themselves. Explaining. With knowledge, courses and experience, one can become an expert. Who among us can claim to be an expert without first becoming that which they seek to understand? But that isn’t the way things work.

Duo sighed softly, the image of exhaustion. His eyes were downcast, no longer studying the golden emblem that marked our path, a wisp of hair dangling before his face. He looked . . . tired. These gestures reminded me once more how frail life was. For all our precautions, we are still human. And humans are open to failure . . . to mistakes.

“Good luck, Woofee,” Duo teased, a smile replacing the defeated look. “You’re gonna get through this, and you’re gonna tell me all about it!” He grinned, vague impatience showing behind the encouragement lingering in those eyes of his.

I scowled, saying nothing for a moment. “You’re coming with me?” I asked finally. Looking vaguely surprised, Duo stepped back a moment, almost as if recovering from a minor shock.

“Why should I?” he wondered aloud, but that familiar violet flame had resurfaced, and with it, that maniacal grin. I sighed silently, hoping he wouldn’t lose control.

I smiled slowly, almost relieved to see a familiar reaction from Deathscythe’s pilot. “You might as well ask why you shouldn’t, the reasons are less in quantity.” He grinned, bowing minutely. I sighed, this time aloud. I couldn’t afford to let him out of my sight . . . even if he did hinder my actions.

The door opened, and together, we walked through. Side by side as equals, neither superior nor underling. Time. Again it slowed, and again I wondered what sort of a temple this was. Time is such a relative thing . . . An hour can be eternity, or an instant alone. And in what length it takes to take a life, one can be saved. Eternity is forever, but forever is relative. And so one must ask, is eternity?

Reality exists within limits in time. Or does it? Dreams themselves often stretch for hours on end, yet seem as weeks. Why then, do we seek to measure it so? In our confinement, do we take from that which we seek to understand? In placing intelligence on a scale, do we limit ourselves to criteria? What of creativity? Intelligence isn’t a number. It can be many things, or it can be one. It depends who you ask . . . perhaps everything is relative. Or perhaps it is not.

All things done are remembered by part of the brain, recalled now and again, only in dreams. Selective memory often takes place when a child is learning . . . it seems so when a teacher calls upon a student, in any case. The body also remembers what the mind does not—a burn, a tremor before the storm, all things we take no notice of that resurface while dreaming. Symbolism. I’m told it plays a strong role in the life of a dream . . . So what, then, would it mean?

The gold plaited door slammed shut behind us, echoing briefly in the large cavernous room. Iron bars slammed down shortly thereafter, and I got the distinct impression that they wouldn’t be opening until we defeated whatever Master resided here. Duo didn’t bother to turn, keeping his eyes faced forward.

The room was larger than the others had been, largest of all I’d seen so far. The muted blues and grays seemed to dull one’s sense of hearing, the faint blue haze obscured my vision, leaving me in self-doubt and yet . . . strangely at ease. Everything was out of place, nothing existed the way it was, and all things changed with a passing thought. I closed my eyes, and darkness surrounded us. I opened them, and it seemed closer still, holding us close to the deepest of blacks, forever absent and yet close at hand.

I breathed the silver blue mist and dreamt. I thought for a moment, that I was safe and protected, and I dreamed a dream of deadly thought. That I might relax, and fall sleeping into a loved one’s arms, forever at peace, and yet . . .

A word. It was a soft murmur of a kiss it was of thought . . . a word. “Wake,” he said, a whisper on the high-strung winds of fate’s necessity. That slow murmur was carried far by the winds and it reached. My eyes flew open, and it was then I noticed Duo’s hand on my shoulder. He looked not at me, but at the room. The silver room of blue and white light . . . forever lit yet an eternity in darkness lay beyond that light.

That darkness could not last, and it pulled me closer to it, away yet so close. I was not here, not there . . . but . . . someplace. I was without time. I was simply . . . without thought, and without a purpose. “Dream,” Duo whispered, and again, the world awoke. My senses returned, and with a grateful look to Duo, I stopped. Breathed. I saw.

The room new no bounds, those I had seen before existed only within my mind. No boundaries, just a single endless plain of existence. I was not alive. I existed. Existed only in thought . . . in a dream. I dreamt a dream of deadly thought . . . The words echoed in my head, haunting as a phantom, and the peace I had sensed seemed all encompassing.

But the darkness existed. Forever in between, the shades of gray were only present here, there was no good, no evil. Just . . . thought. Existence. All things live, and all things die. But not here. Here, there was only thought. Only dreams. And so, the world stopped. And so we did.

Two figures were seen in the mist of despair and rejoicing, a silver light of blue. Slowly the came forward, but the haze did not disperse. It existed only here, only now. We thought we were alive . . . all of us. We dreamt of a war . . . of peace? What was it now, in this land of thoughts? The dreaming. All existed, and nothing at all.

The figures seemed closer now, yet they hadn’t moved. The two figures were outlines of silvery light, a white light of endless grace to rival the stars. And the light was eternal. But darkness claimed all, and for a moment, we saw nothing. Nothing but eternity silenced, the time and balance destroyed. Naught before the world exploded once more.

The fire was all enveloping yet so far off. None of it existed here, not a single thing. But light was eternal, was it not? And so is fire. Where one thing dies, another is born. Birth, life, death and finally rebirth. The fire exists and so do I. At leas we exist for now . . . How much can be said for the future? It has not come.

The fiery being I knew as Duo exploded into light, blinding the figures and myself alike. The fury in the air was excruciatingly painful, and yet it did not exist. Nothing did. But everything was alive . . . The air itself sang of amusement and fury, of a life gone and past and one stifled. The light knew nothing. And darkness . . . darkness knew all.

“You have come,” the figure spoke with a light in its voice, and yet nothing knew. The two figures were upon me now, and Duo far above . . . as far as this endless plain of existence would allow. I blinked in surprise, recognizing the figure as it recognized me. “Wufei,” the smile I heard so evidently materialized, and at last I could see those familiar features . . .

“Quatre,” I said faintly, watching the golden haired child come closer still. He was dressed not as I had known him, the bloody cloth I’d seen him last in was gone, replaced in silver and gold. He would have looked an angel if he hadn’t been smiling. The smile was not his, and the golden angel I knew as friend was gone. Soft sadness echoed in his eyes, but that smile spoke of pain beyond telling. Of a fate . . . a fate I’d heard whispers of . . . whispers on the wind.

Reality stopped. And time existed. We . . . we existed. I smiled then, accepting our fate. We existed to die. To die . . . as did they . . . as did we all.

Quatre laughed softly, a sound I had heard once before. And then I had killed him. Dread pulled at my heart as the words were spoken. Not aloud, but in the one place where you cannot block them. “You understand?” Trowa asked softly, and I felt my eyebrows lift in surprise.

Trowa himself looked much the same, the emerald of his eyes shown clearer here than all other places. The soft, pale light was diminishing, and his clothing, as Quatre’s, was white. Silver gold framing his slight figure in loose folds of spun shadows; the cloth was something I had only imagined before. He danced the dance of a dream, and the dream spoke. It whispered in his ears, as it whispered in his mind. The slight smile reflected Quatre’s, and fate knew no more. Reality had no place here, and neither did fate. This was a realm I had not visited often, even as a child. And I had yet to learn the rules.

:You die,: said Duo, a voice that sang of pain and despair deeper than thought. Yet it was not heard, it was felt. The crisp, light arrows of dawn crept into his thoughts, and the very flames that made him flared. The silence continued, broken only by soft laughter. The peal of silver bells, silent and forever still.

“No,” Quatre countered, that smile widening. He turned then to me, the smile fading from his face, a soft look of speculation crossing once. “You brought him here. Why?” There was no malice in his voice, only curiosity. “He was the one that was to trap you, and yet you bring him here. Why.”

Trowa’s smile disappeared, and a similar look of confusion crossed his eyes. “You live . . .the both of you.” He said simply, staring vacantly at the fiery being we knew to be the pilot of the gundam Deathscythe. He smiled shortly, and shook his head. “He cannot stay here,”

:Death cannot touch you in all places save this one. Yet you stay. Why?: Duo countered, a sweet malice reflecting broken glass.

Again that laugh of silver, and the once golden angel shook his head. “May the wings of fate bring your swift return,” he said softly, a smile lighting his eyes. “Leave.”

The light exists. As do we. And so it exploded once more, leaving thought and time shattered in blood. It was the blood of worlds, of time itself. And reality quickened and died, leaving the darkness to reign supreme.

[End Part 11]

"The killer always leaves a trail. There are two reasons for this. First, he is human, and thus fallible. Second, and far more importantly, he cannot bear the thought of being completely alone."
~Sandor Ferenczi,
"The Criminal Mind"


Part 13

The school day seemed as a flash of lightning, with one class bleeding into the next with little hardship. No particular event was clear in my mind; the studies were all very simple and easily completed, and the students remained their usual selves. Nothing here suggested the dream I’d lived was reality, and everything suggested it was truth. I was mystified by the circumstances in which I found myself, I walked not in the world of the living, and not yet in the realm of dreams. It occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t ready to awaken, for though my body was aware of all things that occurred and reacted accordingly, my mind was elsewhere. Whether or not anyone realized my daydreams was hard to say, for their responses remained much the same, no matter what it was I said.

By the end of the school day, I remained untouched by sun kissed hours. With a glimmer of silver light, the task at hand ended, and I was free to return home. Home. What an odd word . . . I’ve never considered a place my home before, not even my home colony. It seems strange to me, that this ancient island of glittering seas should become such, when we’d stayed there for less than a month. I suppose that’s the beauty of it, with its emerald leaves of silent beauty, its blinding white beaches and perhaps most of all, the people. I don’t speak of the population in general, for people are people, and should not be judged for anything but their individuality, not by a name, a face, or their homeland. The people I speak of reside in a house that would seem natural in a fairy tale. But time will change things, as it’s known to do, for the storybook houses gave way to buildings of cement.

During one of our earlier explorations, we’d come across the soldiers’ quarters, and the abandoned headquarters stationed atop a hill, not far from what appeared to be some sort of military complex. The rectangular cement buildings of the past remained intact, with little damage to the buildings themselves. Poured concrete made up the walls, the flat roofs gracelessly mimicking those of the natives. We’d been unable to enter at that point, and so the interior remained unknown. There was a vast difference between the styles, yet similarities were indeed apparent.

For some unknown reason these details resurfaced in my mind; the ghosts of the past no longer inhabited the lonely buildings, the walls were old, but standing still. The style was predominantly American, though the text was in both English and Japanese. We’d found little there, as they’d left the old forts alone . . . perhaps they felt the past was too strong there.

As long as we remember this time period, there will be something to regret. I sighed softly, and looked up to the ever-silent leaves, waiting to see what kind of support lingered there. The leaves, their bell-like voices stilled, had none to offer, and I wondered if the sky had anything to offer but remorse. I sat unmoving on the steps of our school, staring at the sky’s silent melody as the wind stirred in the trees.

I waited, even as the other students had long gone, I sat waiting for one whose presence could not be denied. Miss Orien had asked me to escort William home, seeing as we had somehow managed to become neighbors. He was not long in coming, perhaps five, six minutes . . . but our peers as a whole seem to be interested only in escaping the prison that has so long tormented them; five minutes was more than enough time to empty the schoolyard of all but a few.

Soft footsteps heralded his approach, giving me warning enough of his presence. Walking down the hall at a slow pace, William seemed in little hurry to find himself at his newly dubbed home. I smiled, wondering why it was that I found my thoughts drifting as often as the breeze shifted. Quickly and quietly the wind hastened its pace, and the silent leaves rang a toll of death to the passing students.

“Hey,” William greeted, a slow smile lighting his features. He was the kind of kid you know to trust, with an open heart and mind, and the ability to draw others closer. Not only as a team, but also as friends. In this way he reminded me of Quatre. I sighed silently at the thought. I nodded in return to his greeting, surprised to find a small smile adorning my face. I didn’t think I would smile for a long time, and yet this boy, little more than a child, managed to draw a truer smile than I had felt in a long while. Such is the marvel of children.

“Uh . . . thank you for showing me the way back,” he started slowly, a nervous, lopsided smile replacing the earlier one. He shifted the bag he carried a little, only to move it back into the previous position as we stood there. A nervous kind of hope lingered in his eyes still, a soft brown revealing echoes of red and black swirling towards the center. He must want a friend, I thought, that smile of mine faltering for a moment. I couldn’t afford to give him that, not when it meant his life might be endangered because of who I am, and who my friends are. But it seemed I had little to say in the matter, and my mind had little to say in it.

I realized with a start that he was waiting for some sort of reply, and that I had just been standing there, staring like some sort of idiot at the trees behind him. I turned briskly away, embarrassed that my attention should wander so easily. “It’s my duty, Browning,” I said simply, wincing inwardly at the coldness in those words. What kind of a pilot are you, anyway? I wondered, taking a few steps forward with William not far behind.

He skipped a little to catch up, that same nervous light in his eyes, a smile echoed quietly on his lips, the picture of lost hope. “You don’t have to call me that,” he muttered, more to himself than me. “I already told you,” he continued, obviously not expecting me to hear him. “Call me Will,” he looked up then, half anticipating my reaction, mostly hoping I hadn’t heard him at all. I slowed, and stopped, half turning around to face him completely. The taller boy turned red under my scrutiny, not meeting my gaze, but not turning away either.

“All right . . . Will,” I said finally, searching for something in the kid’s eyes. He looked up then, another of those hopeful smiles written clearly on his face. He must have found what he was looking for, because that smile quickly broke into a cheerful grin. From this alone I could tell he didn’t smile much, such was the antics of other children, not him. But when he did, it was a heartfelt sentiment, not something pulled from air in false cheer. I turned around again, closing my eyes to the beauty of nature that surrounded me, a smile on my lips.

We walked in silence for a few moments, nothing else in sight but the trees and the houses. The silence was a blessing; I don’t think I could have stood the clamor of our peers at that moment. This was the time for contemplating issues great and small, not for idle chatter. The trees would not have it, and the wind carried all else but that away.

A break in the trees revealed a jagged patch of golden light, but that light was fast fading from my thoughts, and the trees listened once more to a song I could not hear. Quiet laughter broke my thoughts, a soft sound that seemed vaguely out of place here in this world of silent mysteries. I looked back at William momentarily, wondering if he had noticed, but the boy was staring down at the sidewalk as of now, not paying the slightest bit of attention to either me or the laughing pair. One voice was oddly familiar, yet distinctly off, all the same.

I closed my eyes momentarily, catching only fragments of words and phrases from the two ahead of us, trying to place the voices that were so close to my heart. My eyes opened, and I at last caught sight of the pair. The familiar school uniforms seemed off, but the profiles of the two boys were achingly familiar. As long as I remember, there will be something to regret. When the memory is particularly painful, do we shrug it off, or analyze it, bit by bit? How are we to know?

The two spared not the slightest glance to anything but each other, seemingly lost in their world of love. A soft smile, the slightest caress of lips . . . inseparable both physically and . . .

Violet eyes held cobalt, and the world seemed to slow and stop with their gentle adoration, with each smile and soft laugh. I’ve never seen him smile like that, not even once. I turned away slowly, looking to the trees once more, finding their emerald beauty too harsh and accusing for me. I could feel William’s curious gaze on me, the slightest hints of unease drawn from his staring, embarrassment reigning supreme at witnessing such a private moment. I said nothing, and we walked on.

We reached our respected houses quickly enough, and our so-called mothers greeted us not far from the door, smiles wide and joyful for the two of us to have ‘made friends’ so quickly. I’m sure it seemed convenient enough. With many smiles, our families chattered cheerfully about one thing or another, but I paid little mind to what it was they said. With a short nod to William, I made my way inside as quickly as I was able to. My mother didn’t seem to mind overly much . . . perhaps she was distracted. I smiled at the thought, wondering how long it would take her to discover that I wasn’t open to her ‘loving attention.’

The stairs seemed an eternity longer than they had this morning, stretching out beyond all mortal comprehension. I didn’t stop to think, merely climbing for the sake of it, the physical exertion on my legs seemed little enough to hold my thoughts, but the mind is a strange and unpredictable thing . . . A flash of violet eyes, and an angel’s caress upon another’s cheek. My eyes closed momentarily, leaning heavily on the wall as I slowed.

A small noise brought my attention to the next floor, but in a moment it was gone again, and silence prevailed. Thinking for a moment of unseen foes, I looked up again, only to see the small form of a child awkwardly holding something much too large for their small hands.

“What have you got there?” I asked softly, walking forward in an attempt to share her burden. It occurred to me that the girl had a name . . . one that had momentarily slipped my mind. I frowned minutely, digging through the depths of my memories to see what it was her mother had called her. “Miya?” She smiled shyly, her small arms shaking with the weight of her load.

Upon seeing that I would not raise my voice or scold her for carrying something that didn’t belong to her, she grinned, her entire face lighting up with pleasure. “Wufei? Will you teach me? Please?” She asked, struggling to present the object of her interest.

I smiled, opening my mouth to reply as I briefly glanced at the article. A silver hilt greeted my eyes, a faint flash of misty sapphire and white gold joined in a single unmistakable pattern I’d seen before. The sword I’d found in that temple of lost souls found my gaze and held it, a single agonizing reminder of the experience I’d thought a dream.

The darkness of the night never seemed quite so enveloping as before. The entire world seemed drowned in emptiness, hiding the truth in dark secrets shrouded in mystery. A flickering torch remained untouched before slowly dying in the pale light given off by this sword. If the temple was of lost souls, and the sword was of the temple, does that make it the sword of the lost? To kill the lost seems ruthless, but to leave them to their heartache seems all the more so. So the world ignores it, for the most part, or gives a small strip of cloth to bind the wounds of thousands.

Miya shifted uncomfortable under my surprised gaze, seeming a bit awkward for one so young. My expression must have been one of extreme shock and bewilderment, for she seemed a bit uncomfortable and oddly proud for finding this sword of the lost.

“Where did you find this?” I asked softly, my gaze going from the sword to her eyes and back again. The pale sapphire light reminded me briefly of the sunrise, and the white stars of a forgotten past glittered in this young child’s eyes.

Smiling shyly once more, Miya spoke softly, almost reverently, as she set the sword down. “I found it,” Her smile wavered uncertainly. “In your room, on your pillow.” I blinked, wondering how it was that I’d missed something as obvious as this blade on my own bed. Out in the open as it was, I should have seen it immediately—unless it was placed there after I’d left. “I’m not in trouble, am I?” Her voice shook with suppressed tears, but she somehow managed a weak smile, all the same.

I smiled sadly in reply, knowing without knowing that I mirrored the expression Duo had worn before meeting up with two of the missing pilots. “No, Miya, you’re not in trouble,” I sighed, looking thoughtfully at the girl. “I’ll teach you the basics, okay?” She grinned, and I smiled again. “Not with this though,” I said, gesturing to the blade. “It’s too big for you, and I don’t think your mother would like it should you be hurt.” She nodded excitedly, practically bursting from suppressed joy. I don’t know why, but she seemed to think she should behave as an adult rather than a child of four. “Now, can I see the sword?” She nodded, and slowly I took the gleaming weapon in my hands for the first time in what seemed an eternity.

My hands shook as I raised it to eyelevel, and for a moment all was still. The heavy air of the day seemed unreachable from this cool level of solitude, and the world was remained untouched. Lost. I was lost in a world where nothing remained constant, and where all remained . . . pure. And the world awoke with a blinding flash of a stained glass window breaking; the colors shattering and raining down slowly to form shades unseen, revealing that what I’d taken for golden sunlight was gray as ash, darker than the night itself. For the night is beautiful, and this was nothing but the absence of life.

Memories of the day flooded my mind, every one of them a stinging reminder that this was not the world I knew. Did I dream? Was I sleeping, somewhere in the cave? Or was I broken and bloodied in the temple of the lost? Silver eyes were masked as blue, and golden sheen covered all that was. Too clean. The world was too clean, untouched by the ash that waited patiently, outside the stained glass of lighter shades.

A word, a memory remained fresh in my mind, the feeling of hopelessness, the feeling shared by all the lost. Warm blood ran down my arms, not the blood of my enemies, and not mine. I knew this thought, this memory better than any other, it seemed. How many times will I wake in the night to find that I’m covered in the blood of my friends? Lost in a dream world.

‘Everything you know is a lie,’ I’d told him. The words unknown to me resurfaced in my mind, and it became clear to me why Duo had become angry when I spoke them. ‘No one can love you for the deaths that follow, and all that did have come to regret their moment of weakness.’ I knew those words, for they were mine. And worse yet, I hadn’t screamed at him, as one might assume, but stated this calmly and coolly as if it was just another report. Only the eyes revealed my anger, and a veil of disgust hid that powerful emotion from view.

‘You are not a child because you cannot be one, and yet you behave as if you were three.’ A scoff of disdain flavored the words; disgust for him and all he represented seemed all that was. I was the one who’d hurt him, and I had done it with a clear mind and level speech. I knew he would take it to heart, for despite all our training, we are young yet. ‘Your faults will bring the deaths of us all, and you remain blissfully unaware of the fact. Recklessness has always been your strongest area, and for that you have gotten yourself into more trouble than any of us.’ I closed my eyes to the words, but you can no more hide from your thoughts than you can from a memory. My heart was breaking, and my eyes remained cold and divided.

‘If you get in my way, I will kill you, have no doubt about that.’ A smile of predatory hunger, an unnamed desire to destroy everything that had touched his heart . . . so removed from my own. When love is for another alone, how else can one obtain that which has long been taken? ‘I will kill you as I did him.’ A small smile of cold satisfaction as another thought returned. ‘After all . . . you are the weakest of us,’ I turned away, calling softly over my shoulder. ‘It would be my pleasure to remove you.’

A calm voice answered my harsh words; devoid of the melodic undertones I seemed to associate with the violet eyed boy. ‘I’m surprised at you, Wufei,’ I should have known he would say something in reply, but what it was he’d said couldn’t bother me before. But that was then, this was now. ‘You’ve killed before, and I know it. As do you. We’ve all had to sacrifice lives, and not all of them were our enemies.’ His face was devoid of any expression, but a small smile of disdain flickered here. ‘It hurts, but we get over it. Because we have to.’ Lavender eyes promised pain and anger, but never something deeper, something soft to the touch. It is no longer, I thought. This is only a memory . . . a dream of a memory that never occurred. But that did not ease my pain. It only deepened it.

He paused a moment, a thoughtful expression adorning this painful memory of a terrible, beautiful moment of anger. ‘I would expect you know something about love.’ A cruel smile played in his eyes, but his face remained untouched. Stone. ‘To know . . . about loving someone who can never love you.’ With that, he nodded coolly, and turned, walking out of my mind. But the memory would return. I knew then that I would remember this for a long, long time.

The memories did not cease, much to my regret. A couple walked beneath the leaves of the sapphire sky, their bare hands touching lightly, content as long as they remained close. Two hands, both lacking the watches we had previously used to communicate with each other. Shadows flickered across Heero’s back, a vague silhouette of something unseen, dissolving into the shadow that trailed them. Silver eyes were masked as blue, and nothing remained long hidden before them.

I rose with the dawn, every morning I was here, sometimes before, as I had today, but never after. School was not until an hour after the fact, and yet this morning I had walked beneath the rising sun’s rays. I recalled two sunrises, and both of them from the same day. Only in a dream can the dawn come twice.

The torches in the hallways were not my imagination, I realized now. The flickering shadows remained close at hand, and the darkness, as in the temple, seemed immeasurable. Things were not as they should be, as these memories so clearly proved.

All around me I aw the reflection of what was. I saw reflections of their love in his eyes, an emotion that was not meant for me. Amethyst eyes reflected the shadows and mystery of the temple I’d thought to leave, the glowing fires of amber and gold turned violet by his anger. Wings of demons and a scythe that glowed with light all its own raced through the endless depths of his eyes, resurfacing and drowning in the dark waters with every passing emotion.

The golden white sands of the desert remained a reflection only in eyes of blue, offset by scimitars that glowed with inner power and strength. A reflection in the depthless eyes of the past and future. Forever knowing without seeming, the true way of things seems forever lost except for one. A guide through times of pain and suffering, led only by children who are older than youthful appearances might suggest. And all of this warped by blue-silver mist of an unknown entity. Time stilled and time stopped, not everything can remain unchanged.

Emerald eyes of truth and heartache reflected the virgin forests of old, ancient and beyond human comprehension. The truth of the matter seemed not as close as one might think, for an arrow of swift and agile weaponry is fired before many can react. A soldier, a weapon, alone and yet forever entangled in . . . life. Another pair of eyes were reflected here, the eyes of the softer, gentler kind, and the predatory gaze that knows no fear. The golden mist surrounding the forest’s age obscures the finer details, but nothing can dull the life.

Eyes of blue, deeper than before, remained unknown and untouched by many. But not by all. For these eyes have been touched by a shade of amethyst unfamiliar to me, as some things aren’t to be shared. Wings and swords collided in a flash of blue and gold, a battle that was sure to end in disaster. Here there could be flight among the stars and clouds, free of thought and duties. Wings of feathery silver flashed, enveloping two figures in folds of white and gold. Amethyst fire danced deep within these waters of cobalt blue, a darker shade than I had previously imagined.

The world awoke from its dream, but I did not. Turning as it does, it seemed that the world and all things in it shine with an ‘inner light’ as some would call it. Perhaps it is the aura, the essence of self that identifies one living thing from another.

I hesitate to say that the more extravagant the personality, the brighter the force, for sometimes the light is a quiet steady stream that seems so commonplace that it is overlooked by the brilliantly pulsing lights that we marvel over. But if it is pulsing, that means for at least a moment the light is still. And in that instant you may find it all the more beautiful for the pause in rhythm. For what would the light be with no darkness to compare it to? But the unwavering source of light can hardly remain at its full potential at all times. That would take too much. Though steady, it may seem weaker than the bursts of light from that pulsing source, and easily over looked in the glory of it. But in those seconds of darkness, that steady light may transform into a sign of hope.

The sword in my hands seemed to pulse with a light of its own, radiating with an eerily familiar shade that brought me back to before. Before the times when the shadows waited for a moment only, remaining for a minute of solitude before breaking once more into a startling onslaught of darkness to rival even the deepest of caves.

Light and dark seem as opposites, but are they so different? Found in all things, light and dark can be what they are, or as sources to guide us to our goals. In that perspective, light is all that is good, whereas darkness is evil. But we are human, and none of us are pure. Neither in dark nor light, for there are shades of each resting in each of us. To say one is good or evil . . . how can you truly be justified? We all have our motives, and one thing points to another. Whatever emotion or being leads us isn’t required to be justified . . . it just is. Leave it to others to make your reasoning.

I examined the sword as if it were an entirely different weapon, tracing every little design noticeable for some sort of insight as I thought over what had occurred. So many little things pointed to a sleeping world of dream and comfort that was false, and I missed them all. It had taken this blade for me to notice it, and the fault could only be mine. If the sword is here, I thought, what of my gun? The clothes I’d worn must have gone somewhere. Why not here? I found myself moving quickly through the halls, ignoring the confused expression of the little child.

At first glance, my room seemed exactly as I’d left it. Not a thing appeared to have moved, not even a discarded shoe. I didn’t let the sword leave my hand for a moment as I carefully dug through the dresser, searching for some sign of my leaving.

As I searched, the shadows darkened around me, leaving the room in a dulled sense of contrasting colors. The world seemed enwrapped in its silvery mist, belonging to another place altogether. So long as it remained, I would be partially blind to the more intricate details of this dream world, leaving me in doubt, second-guessing every move I made. As the shadows grew in number, what little light remained took on that familiar blue haze, a forceful reminder that there were lies within lies, and truths within the both of them. All around me, the world faded in and out, the colors muted and blurred, colliding into each other in violent clashes.

I stopped my searching, a frustrated sigh escaping my lips as I escaped the confinements of the room, stumbling out the door in something akin to haste. My thoughts seemed blurred, even to myself, slow and indecipherable babble that held no meaning. I slowed once more, leaning again on the wall as I looked in a daze upon the floor below me. When I stepped away, the sound of wet clothing being pulled from drywall resonated in my ears. Looking at the wall in vague confusion, my eyes met the crimson color of new blood.

My clothes seemed to stick to my body, leeching the warmth from me and leaving me helpless. I stared at the wall for a moment longer before running down the stairs, faded voices matching the hushed hues to the smallest of details. Someone called me, but their voice seemed to far off . . . carried by the wind for my ears to hear, but not interpret. Something was not right. I’d known that . . . hadn’t I? I had the sword of the lost, but at what price?

Through all this, life went on. The family went about their business, my new mother talking to William’s, both of them paying as much attention to my presence as if I wasn’t there. William noticed me though, even if the others did not. He offered a tentative smile, but upon getting no response, the smile faded to a frown of concern. My clothes were soaked in the blood of a friend, already drying but not fast enough to remove the discomfort of moving.

I found myself running out the door as one plagued by nightmares—for what is the difference when you find the world you took for truth was nothing but a dream? I’ll kill you in your dreams tonight . . . the words drifted through my head unbidden, a slightly familiar tune that I’d heard Duo play, and sometimes sing, every now and then. And then the world stopped. For a moment, there was nothing but the heavy darkness of the evening, where the remaining daylight hours had gone, I could not say. Even here, underneath the large tree in our yard, I knew the world was not done with me yet. I could never forget. How could I?

“Wufei?” Will called tentatively from the doorway, the faded gold and blue light from the house seeping out into the shadows of the night. Despite that, it did little to take them completely away. “Are . . . are you okay? You looked . . .” he paused, trying to find a way to phrase his question without offending me. “Like you were freaking.”

I had to laugh at his choice of words. Even now I found the time and resolve to think of Duo, making connections and drawing parallel pictures of words that were not his. Will seemed a bit startled by this, taking a step back towards the golden light that was behind him. Regaining my composure, I turned to look at the boy, intending on reassuring him with whatever words came to mind, but that was not the case. It seems nothing ever goes as planned anymore.

William alone remained untouched by the shadows, a golden beacon of light that pulled my eyes away from the patches of darkness, not faded as the other people were, but complete. I stared at him for what felt like hours to me, but could have only been moments in the ‘real’ world. “I-it’s nothing. Listen . . .” I stopped for a moment, wondering where my breath had gone. “I’ve got to go pick up a homework assignment.” The excuse sounded weak in my own ears, but it was all I could think of with the blurred thoughts running through my head.

Before he could further damn me, I took off again, running down the streets in no apparent direction, turning at odd points and growing colder by the moment. The blood on my clothes seemed to hold the chill in, and the thinness of the shirt didn’t help anything. Somewhere in the back of my mind I heard the wind blowing, carrying the faint sound of laughter to my ears as I went on. Footsteps echoed, but they were not my own, as loud as my footfall seemed as of now, whoever followed didn’t know the slightest about concealing their presence. Taller and heavier, they couldn’t be any of the other pilots, but that came of little relief to me.

I slowed my pace to a walk when I came into familiar territory, realizing where it was my feet had brought me. The cave’s darkened entrance loomed again before me, though how I came to be there was lost on me. With a sigh of defeat, I found myself again walking into the shadows. I walked as if in a daze, what little sounds and sights remained seen were lost on me.

When I stopped, it was more from exhaustion than any ‘meaningful’ insights, sitting down by the walls that imprisoned me here. Worn from the hectic pace I’d set to reach this place, I leaned heavily against the wall as I listened for the sound that someone followed. I knew they hadn’t let off, for every so often I would hear some sign of their presence. They made their presence known by such little things as a kicked rock, the echoes off the walls from footsteps, or even a quiet voice calling out in the darkness. My eyes closed of their own will, and what little light that could be seen inside this cavern was obliterated.

Someone called my name. Their voice was faint and shadowy, as voices sometimes are in dreams. So the world calls your name . . . I thought, vaguely aware of this unknown person who shared my prison. No, I replied, acutely aware of the following person’s presence in this. Not the world. Someone. Whispers on the wind. Again with the wind . . . why is it those words come back to haunt me? The world dreams as I do, a world of fantasy and ill creation—nothing can truly be this pure. I dreamt a dream of deadly thought.

I opened my eyes.

Darkness greeted me once more, but not the familiar darkness of the cave. A torch flickered somewhere before me, illuminating the room as before. Before I fell asleep. No, I thought absently. That’s not right. I didn’t fall asleep. I was knocked unconscious . . . Someone stirred in front of me, and I found myself again moving painfully to my feet. Annoyed violet eyes met my own. Hands on his hips, Duo raised a single eyebrow, almost as if he was asking what had taken me so long.

“Well . . .” he greeted simply. “Nice to see you back in the realm of the living,”

Just a note . . .

Miya (Source of name: Japanese)Meaning: temple. Other same source forms of main listing; Miyana, Miyanna.



Part 14 (revised)

I stopped. For an undeterminable amount of time, life for me held no meaning. For once, there was nothing I could do but stare as the times before and during the recent nightmare faded. Silence seemed to have taken a claim on my voice, for Duo's words echoed off the walls of the cavern like interior.

The dream temple, then . . . Perhaps I'd gone farther than I thought.

What questions I may have thought to ask abruptly left my mind, as that consciousness was fast becoming a whirlwind of incoherent thoughts and previous actions. A song drifted in and out of the chaos, slow and indecipherable from the undergoing whispers of fading memories. When truth is nothing but a shadow of a lie, what more can be said? What can I do when there's nothing left but to stare? For once, it seemed, I had run out of options.

As I stared dumbly at the wall, I tried in vain to collect my thoughts under the harsh light of reality. The moment I lifted my thoughts from the haze of dreams, I simply could not return to the coherent patterns and ideas that had once claimed my mind. The more I tried, the more I was doomed to fail. At last I pulled from the resulting turmoil, turning to a different method of understanding. Settling into a meditative position, I opted to guide my thoughts rather than forcing them into specific designs

A memory floated in and out of my awareness, that of a young girl with her hands around mine-and a sword . . . Blinking slowly, a name finally came to me. Miya. The supposed daughter of my host . . .

Well. I thought, letting my features slowly settle in whatever order they deemed necessary. The affect must have been interesting, to say the least, considering the mix of emotions my pain driven head housed. That's certainly an interesting turn of events, wouldn't you think? I chuckled dryly, amused despite myself. The girl . . .

Molted blues and grays drifted across my vision, wandering where the emotions invoked did not belong. I was unmoving in my position, silently imagining a world where the stones were awash with red, thinking of some design where a single drop in the ocean meant nothing and everything as one. And so it was the little girl's face I saw. She was alight with curiosity and laughter but filled with peace few grown mortals understand. What do we give up when we leave our childhood? Nothing, or everything? What do we gain?

Miya was no more. I don't mean to say that she died . . . how can anyone die when they never existed? The child is a dream . . . mine? Even so, her absence brought the return of my sorrow. I closed my eyes.

Sighing quietly, Duo scuffed his foot absently in the earthen floor, his tired movements speaking of impatience even though he tried to keep this from me. I'm not sure why, but this angered me more than it would have had he spoken outright. Because of this, my sword was drawn, and in a moment it was pointed directly at his throat. Letting out a startled cry of protest, Duo stepped back with a frown of annoyance. His movement only sent my sword deeper into his neck, though the pressure was not great enough to draw blood. The skills of a trained terrorist are many.

The skills of a warrior combined cannot compare in hand-to-hand combat.

"What's going on here?" I hissed, frustration seeping into my anger scarred voice. I was tired, and it showed. The last encounter had me injured, but not quite beaten. Chances favored Duo more than I.

"You woke me up, you brought me from the dream. Why." It was no question . . . I'm afraid I've never been one to request much at all. Duo stared at me, violet eyes wide with shock. "I grow weary of these games, Maxwell, tell me what I want to know!"

A frown of disdain adorned his features, marring his beauty in a delicate sort of way. Even at sword point, Duo Maxwell is not one to be trifled with. The jokester has many faces, faces transformed within an instant of each other, some perfectly intelligible, some less readable than the silver mist in the depths of the sea.

Anger, pain, suffering, love, disdain, annoyance . . . the emotions I could list could go on forever, and each one has a face all its own. Just because the mask is in place
doesn't mean that it's false, however. To create the mask, you must have something of what it portrays within you, ready at a moment's notice. The most beautiful of these expressions is the one that is not and never will be meant for me.

Though I know it, it pains me to see the love he shares with another. Gilded wings of silver and blue . . . A flicker of emotion crossed his face, an unreadable feeling that I had only seen once before. I struggled to recall when that moment was-but the enveloping mist staked its claim before I could remember it.

"What you want is a lie." He said coldly, that frown subtly turning to a sneer that lasted for a moment alone. A silky smile claimed his lips, a smile that did not reach his eyes.

The eyes express the most fragile emotions one can possess, the soft look of love reclaimed by hurt, quickly fading into a flash of anger and despair . . . Though his eyes express all one might want to know, the trouble isn't finding it . . . the difficulty lies in deciphering what it means.

Do you want the truth of the matter? Revealing what emotion lies beneath the dark amethyst waters is difficult. For two reasons . . . every one of us is a complex person. We live, we breathe, sharing so many attributes that we are all classified as one species. But within each individual there lies an independent mind with thoughts unique to the person. The second reason . . . that fault llies within the beholder. We're all biased, no matter how we deny it.

I felt my face redden under his cold stare, though why I could not say. My mouth seemed permanently twisted in a scowl of hatred, but slowly it faded from my face to a somber, more serene expression. "What goes on here?" Though the malice had left my eyes and lips, it had yet to relinquish its claim on my voice. My ears heard the anger, picking up the trace of fear and mockery even before I realized what these emotions were.

"Why did you wake me from a dream?" Despair took the rights to my voice, forgetting the emotions I had previously known.

He shrugged carelessly, an indifferent expression gracing his face as one question whirled through my mind. "You wanted me to." My sword arm shook, though the blade remained steady. Shocked by his choice of words, I could only stare for a moment, uncomprehending.

"That is reason enough for you?" I asked lamely, the previous emotions drained from my voice, leaving me pale and cold in its wake. I trembled inwardly, though my body showed no signs. I'm breaking inside . . .

Again he shrugged. "It's of no importance." Beautiful. Icy splendor untouched by mortal hands, beyond the human sense of attractiveness and fear. How can one define something such as this? Compassion is one that can only gain from a moment's lost time . . . the world is a cold place.

The world was crystalline in its beauty, frozen and unseen in its distant pleasure. I could take no joy from this, and despite everything, I knew nothing of what passed through my friend and . . . partner's mind. My world turned a murky blue gray, not the mist like silver and blues of the times past, but the color of rotted flesh soaked too long in water.

A broken phrase, a thought unspoken can turn into a purpose that drives you towards one uncertain object. So the dream is shared with others so that it might grow and flourish under many caring hands. One thing leads to another, and events take place to further this hope nourished and cultured in the very heart of one person who started it all. But a tree can be cut down for firewood, and a dream may fall to satisfy the needs of another.

Unbound. Free of the constricting bonds of one person's thoughts, a dream has the possibility of becoming a reality. Unbroken. Complete, the thought may remain as is, growing and flourishing under the care of one or many individuals. Undone. Destroyed, the goal may be resurrected. And that is all the hope that remains for it.

"Though time may halt for a moment," a low voice murmured, aflame with a deadly passion unknown to me. What in the worlds of men can one say to the mad? The sting of his arrogance brought to mind the painful kiss of the blackest of spiders, searing heat with the absence of love. "It does not cease to exist."

Spoken with a passion heard only between two closer than we.

It seemed something close to blasphemy to hear such grace spoken from one who belonged to another-one who likewise owned the said being.

Turning again to face him, my eyes flashed with fire similar to his. Opening my mouth to silence him, or perhaps to rebuke him, the angry words died on my lips with a choked breathe. "You-you-" Struggling to find the words that burned my heart with a startling fury, I tried to speak. "You know nothing of these matters." I faltered. The words rang false even to me.

How can one fight the heart? The spirit? Without strength, such a feat seems impossible to ones such as we. Without consolation, the absence of his belief was a painful reminder of the past and present.

A sweet, harsh meeting of lips echoed hauntingly in my mind, the silver mist of the past seemed to assure secrecy and pleasure beyond my experience-but that time was past, and here, in the beginning of the temple, I seemed at a loss.

Perhaps, I mused ironically, this is not the beginning, but simply the middle.

"You would kill me if I gave you reason enough," Violet eyes met mine with an amused interest cruelly separate from the smile that haunted his lips. Cold assurances of those same dark eyes told me he did not fear

I knew my appearance was hardly worth notice; wet with the blood of my colleagues, injured by a companion I would gladly claim as friend--had he not betrayed me first. Never mind he did it not of his own free will . . . even though I may be convinced thus, it seems I am helpless against the onslaught of that irritating being calling itself my conscience.

"Sense of right and wrong" indeed . . . damned annoying if you ask me . . .

Nobody did, an irate voice replied scathingly.

So much for sanity . . . they say it's a highly prized thing, too . . .

A soft voice cleared its throat, bringing to my attention that I had yet to answer his so-called question. I shrugged, hardly caring what he thought as of now. It seemed that it hardly mattered, after all . . . something seemed out of place, but what exactly it was I could not decipher, as I wasn't completely sure whether I wanted to or not. Afraid of the consequences or afraid of exactly what it was?

Sighing quietly, I opened my mouth to speak, but no words came. Struggling with my thoughts, the notion that he had put me at odds for a reason continued to plague me. Relentless as always and with the patience of a young cat, Duo tapped his foot impatiently, obviously expecting me to say something worth hearing. Hmph. I thought, nonetheless, I was slightly entertained by his reactions. "What makes you think that?" I asked dryly, letting amusement seep into my voice.

Hardly put off by my reply, the violet-eyed boy simply shrugged, a derisive smirk marring immaculate beauty. Silence may or may not last, but with one such as Duo, it seemed entirely up to him. Annoyed, I merely scowled, deciding that for once, it would not be me provoking his fury.

Gesturing towards the doors absently, he nodded in silence, waiting for me to make the first move. Sighing inwardly, I wondered briefly where this exercise would take us this time . . . It seemed I was about to find out.


Part 15

With the slightest of pauses, Duo turned from me with a single unbroken motion, moving with his characteristic feline grace. The easy transition was discrete, but the simple steps might well have been a dance. I’d come to expect that sort of vibrant emotion from him, but at that particular moment, I was hardly in the mood to tolerate his antics. I might have strangled him with frustration if not for the fact that he remained my only partner here.

Sighing, I allowed myself a moment’s time to simply watch him move, letting the exasperation tumble from my mind in a slow downpour of peace. Had he not turned around, that may actually have happened. The same impatience I had been experiencing showed clearly in those indigo eyes, but all the same, a hint of mischief lurked within their depths. Covering my smile with a sigh of indignation, I gestured once more for him to continue.

Bowing with childish delight, Duo looked up briefly, meeting my gaze with a not-so-elegant quirk of an eyebrow. “You realize that we haven’t been here before?” He asked casually, the same dark amusement filling his eyes with a cold flame.

Looking around once more, I realized at last what had seemed off. He spoke the truth: the room was unfamiliar to me. Frowning, I looked back to the increasingly entertained ‘child’ that served as my guide. For once, he seemed at a loss for words, or else he was daydreaming, for I got no response from him. The moment I looked away, he started forward again, that familiar bounce in his stride even for the loss of energy he must have suffered.

That endless store of power . . . even when beaten within an inch of his life, the boy will always walk with an extra flare. How one can manage that, I wouldn’t know, but that same energy is always there—perhaps it would be better called his aura.

Even in the brightest of ponds there lies a shadow, and as it is, the faint overcast of gray has taken its claim on our friend. The smoke filled lantern of an age long surrendered to the oblivion of our past came to mind almost immediately. The flame itself is tinted a color beyond natural light, but instead of filling the tinged cave with a thick sheen of black, the darkness flees the only exit left to it. But light too escapes, and the golden glow that emerges becomes all the more radiant because of the surrounding shade.

Just as an emerald leaf floating in the midst of a midnight lake may become immersed in its depths, we may fail. The dark waters are calm for a moment before crashing relentlessly on the gem of nature, invoking a false sense of security or peace when the time for action is nearly upon us. For as long as the waters of earth remain darkened, the moon shall shed her light.

The silver frames of the unfamiliar doorway seemed rather strange, to say the least. Though of similar design, the stark whites and blues were of a different make than before. More smiles and laughter than previously, the effect was rather disorienting. The more I concentrated on the subtle details, the more they faded from view. With a wordless comment, Duo walked to the door, pulling it gently open with little more than a rusted creak. Aside from that, it swung open easily, complaining no more as the two of us stepped through.

The same smirk complimented his face; a knowing wink alongside it brought my world tumbling down all over again. Annoyed by this, I hastily strode past the threshold, not bothering to wait for him. He would or he wouldn’t; that’s all I cared. Or so I tried to convince myself. Hell. Why are emotions so confusing, anyway?

As long as we remain alive, we will be tested continuously. Not by our teachers alone, but by soldiers, circumstances and civilians among other things. In short, life tests us. True, it does everyone else as well, but not in the same way . . . though life’s trials are different for all her children. In the end, all stories end in death. Even the tales untold.

Walking moodily through the darkened corridor, I stalled a moment in fixing the rough bandage I’d constructed earlier, waiting uneasily for the boy with laughing eyes to follow. Pausing momentarily, he seemed to test the air for something I couldn’t decipher. Shrugging it off as a habit left over from the pilot I’d thought I’d known, I merely tapped my foot, waiting for him to quicken his pace.

How long has it been? I can’t seem to remember anymore; the dreams I’d rather not remember blur the edges of reality, forcing memories and imaginings alike to collide. Seems this experience will prove more than a little thought provoking, doesn’t it? Dreams won’t mean the same.

Then again . . . have they ever?

Duo cleared his throat loudly, obviously trying to get my attention. I don’t know how long he’d been calling my name, but it occurred to me that he was more than a little agitated. “Hello? Wufei!” Annoyance seeped into his voice, clouding it like smoke on mirrors, distorting what actually may have been into the vaguest of hints. “I’d rather you not go off into your little dream world, okay? You’re hard enough to talk to when all of you is here!” Muttering darkly about a few other things he’d appreciate, he finally spoke up again, violet eyes flashing dangerously.

His eyes were like lightning filled skies on the brink of destruction, now. The worst of the storm was yet to come, however, and those twin gems promised something darker than words. Biting my tongue against unwise comments, I simply waited for him to speak. “We need to turn here,” he murmured, running one hand across the side of the ivy-covered wall. Raising an eyebrow at this, I moved quickly to his side, attempting to help, nonetheless.

Through the dim silence around us, I heard Duo’s soft breathing echo in my ears. Underneath this, a gentle melody stirred, slowly waking from a somber piece of a song to a lingering harmony treading lightly upon thoughts with the passing of moments. Closing my eyes, I sought the source of the thing, waiting uncertainly for some sort of rhyme or elegy to pierce it. In my growing discomfort, I stepped back uncertainly, waiting for the music to end.

Duo caught my eye, motioning for me to step back. Still dazed, I did as asked, wondering if he heard. Pulling on some part of the wall, he revealed something of a trap door. The room it lead to was like all the others; stone floor and ivy covered walls, filled with torches along with some undetermined source of light that lit whatever the fire couldn’t reach. The golds and greens swirled in my head, and the melody pulled me further away until nothing was left but the light.

Instead of the golden glow of the fire, the room took on a faintly blue cast, tinged with silver mist darkening into smoke and shadow amid the more prominent features. Shutting my eyes to the light, the room turned abruptly to dusk, and the words I’d been searching for finally came to my notice.

They simply appeared in my head, whispering and shouting, singing and speaking in more voices than I could manage. The message itself emerged in the physical realm, much to my surprise, written in fire, blood and ink as black as the ocean. It faded in and out of view, and I could not read it for longer than a moment. Words appeared and faded in the blink of an eye, dissolving in a mercifully silent rainfall of pain and delight. The refrain faded until only one remained, but that one echoed in my head even as it turned to blood.

The phrase spun a silver web underneath and over my thoughts, enveloping all and forcing one word to mind. Wings.

Do not lose heart... The more I struggled, the stronger the melody became. Like a child’s rhyme, the tune echoed eerily of other, more dangerous songs.

Listen… I saw gold and silver, blue and red. Hear it. Does it matter, to you? What it means. His wings…guide your path.

The sound of wings . . . that’s what the melody spoke of. Singing quietly of the endless, eternal sound of wings, it fought. Belief or disbelief…

It was the silent, deafening elegy of a dead child. To die…

…that is the way.


Dream of the Awakening
Part 17(with the "7" scratched out, replaced with a "6")

Part 16

Pulling a golden strand of hair away from her delicate face, the young lady looked up and smiled beautifully, amusement showing clearly in those sky blue eyes. She seemed an innocent and maiden all at once, obviously a woman, but with the heart and soul of a child. This purity attracted many protectors, who would often appear in the form of unlikely men or beasts. Some days she would notice those friends, or would-be lovers as the case might be, and sometimes she would only take notice of the great hounds at her side.

The animals were her favorites, more often than not, and they would sit close to her whenever possible. She would sometimes fancy the dogs were the sort that hunted the long-absent Unicorn, the Wyvern, or the cunning fox of the forest. Her dogs would protect her whenever she needed their protection, yes, but this often was more an inconvenience than not. The owners of the said beasts would take offense, or someone who intended only a joke would be hurt.

Indeed, she was of a likeable sort, kind and open even under the most drastic of circumstances. It seemed such a child could do no wrong.

Sitting across from this fair young lady was a certain tall and slender youth, with hair the color of blood and molten sunshine, and eyes as green as the spring leaves. His pale skin and silken movements were enough to ensnare every woman of the small village but this one, and ever up to a challenge, the young man would try all the more to capture her affection. Whether or not she enjoyed this attention was unclear, for she never looked at the man more than a moment at a time, her arms filled with a small animal of some sort, petting it even though such actions seemed rude to any with some semblance of manors.

“My lady,” the fiery haired young man began, tilting his cup in a gesture of acknowledgement or what could even be called respect. Keeping his eyes on her, and away from the surrounding patrons of the inn, he smiled. “I would enjoy it much, fair one, if you would join me at my house . . . there are such sights I would show you.”

Gruff laughter filled the inn at that, for all knew of the young man’s persistent attempts to ensnare the lady’s heart. Thinking they knew what kind of a person the green-eyed man was, they felt they knew exactly what he was speaking of.

“Sir, that is no story worth telling,” another chides. Her smile is crooked and amused, filled with laughter untold, and many a knife worth hiding. Her long silver-gold hair is tied in a braid of sorts, less confined than any other maiden present. In comparison to any other, she is quite striking, though her smile-- her behavior --is enough to discredit that.

The lady only smiled. “Indeed, Mister Fox, I’m sure you could show me many great sights.” More laughter followed, but the other lady’s crooked grin does not fade.

“Madam,” he says, “I am no storyteller.” He smiles again, the flame of the candles lending an unnatural glint to his eyes. “I do not jest; the lady Mary could find many great and beautiful sites at my house.”

Perhaps the lady had no malicious intent, but perhaps not. “Ah, but Mister Fox,” Her crooked smile grew marginally at the sound of his name on her lips. “Your stories are always quite amusing.”

Looking somewhat puzzled and more than a bit troubled, the fair Mister Fox colored, glaring ominously at the girl. He dropped his gaze, however, when the lady winked knowingly, that smile glinting in the light. “But, just this once, I shall take your customary role and fill it with a tale of my own.” Murmuring arose from those gathered, and the young Mister Fox frowned, his fiery hair glinting.

“In the dreams of the young and innocent, the lies are echoed in the unseen lands of old. The longer we wait for their tellings to become known, the more they fade from mind.

“But this tale is neither dream nor reality, Mister Fox, but somewhere in between. I trust you, of all people, know of what I speak?” The smile of hers seemed more fitting on the face of a wolf than such a fair maiden. The lady Mary sat quietly, her blue eyes fixed on the maiden as with all the others. Seemingly amused by his choice not to reply, the woman merely laughed and picked up the tale again. “The threads of the story may have been worn thin by the ravages of time, true, but their original meaning can still be found . . . if one searches hard enough.

“My tale is one of old, and the original names of those whom I speak of have been lost. It is a tale of blood, truth and undying loyalty, but also of betrayal, fear and doubt.” She smiled, the candlelight glinting oddly off her sharp teeth and eyes. There was something more to her words, but none of the assembled could say what it was, though it was clear that they were wielded with the grace and skill of one familiar with double-edged knives. “Perhaps the first of these, but perhaps not. It matters little, and the truth of the matter is likely to remain unknown. Let us forget this for a moment, and overlook what we know of the beings called angels, and the lore that surrounds them.

“They are a tall and powerful race, graceful in all manners, forever beautiful and more knowledgeable than any being we now know. They are neither male nor female, for death cannot touch them the way it does us, stealing from our numbers as it does of all life. Let us believe that should an angel die, that it goes neither to heaven nor hell, and not a place between either. The angel, let us say, is recreated, and its body is formed from the blood and bone of its own corpse.” She paused a moment, taking the time to ease her throat with water. Sharp eyes met emerald, and her lips formed a small and secretive smile.

Her voice relieved, she nodded to the closely gathered party, and continued. “The wings they are so known for seem to be solidified moonlight, a glimmering mass of feathers so brilliant they rival the stars. They’re beautiful, intelligent, and more than anything else, they’re different. Of course they are, just as any other living thing is. Some are more striking than others, but to the human eye they are all glorious creatures, and even the most displeasing seems more attractive than any other being. But that’s the way of things, isn’t it, Mister Fox?” That smile was back again, her sharp teeth like so many wolves ready for the final bloody kill.

The red haired man said nothing, his eyes fixed on the strange woman, shining with something similar to a predator’s cool and wary stare. They all were still as she wove her tale with the skill and grace of one well practiced in the art, and true enough, it was a story of blood, truth and loyalty, the former far more than the latter two. Her eyes were either upon Mister Fox’s, or the Lady Mary’s, never once leaving the two alone. For even when she looked at the other, the two shared a feeling of terror the mouse is well akin to, that which it feels whenever the bird of prey flies overhead.

Mister Fox frowned, his delicately pointed teeth breaking the tender skin of his cheeks, leaving a bitter taste behind. And still she smiled.

Closing her eyes now, the woman sighed quietly. “…and that concludes my story.”

The tension was broken almost instantly, like a small child throwing a rounded stone into a window, it shattered, but remained in much smaller pieces that could be quite dangerous if not avoided. Half smiling, Mister Fox raised a delicate eyebrow, wetting chapped lips with the tip of his tongue. “An interesting narrative…” he murmured, his voice carrying a song like the wind, unheard by mortal ears and unsung by human mouths. “I’ve heard many a legend about fox spirits, always discovered by their tails--”

Clearing his throat loudly, the Lady Mary’s father silenced whatever commotion remained, little as it was. “Speaking of tales, you have a story to tell, yes, my dear?” he interrupted, a smile coming to his face as his beloved daughter nodded warily, her golden head bobbing like a wind-blown leaf. This caused the quiet murmuring to pick up again, wondering what kind of thing such a girl would divulge.

“A dream,” she sighed, almost unheard by the crowded room, and all quieted immediately to hear what she said. “Nothing more than a dream.” Smiling in amusement at the small pup in her arms, she bopped its nose, ignoring those gathered around her. Perhaps she spoke to the dog, and perhaps she spoke to the persistent Mister Fox.

“I dreamt that you’d gone to your house, Mister Fox, through the forest and in the hidden glade where few stumble upon error.” Her voice was light with merriment, but an air of concern rode along her melodic tone, of frozen winds and deep nights where even the moon dared not show its light. “And in my dream, you marked the path with the blood of a pig. Perhaps you meant it to be a feast in my honor, but it’s hard to say. I thought nothing of it, Mister Fox, as one will accept almost anything in a dream, and followed your trail with a song in my heart, speeding along quickly so that I might catch up with you. No matter how fast I traveled, though, often pushing poor Bloom a bit harder than I normally would, dear sir,” Bloom, her much beloved horse, was a beautiful creature, that could be agreed, but the mare would listen to none but the lady, and was considered by most a nuisance, little more than a threat to the more tame beasts of the town. “You always remained ahead, and only the drying trail of pigs’ blood marked the way.

“But it is not so, and it was not so, nor ever could it be so.

“After a while, the sheltered road disappeared, and in my dream, Mister Fox, you cut across a meadow filled with flowers of violet and gold, a few of which that were stained crimson by the blood of the swine. It was these that I followed, thinking that surely I would come across you soon, and we would have a lovely chat over a fine meal of freshly cooked meat,” the smile she wore was reserved for her animals, and they lay dutifully at their lady’s feet, the great and small hounds alike pressed close for companionship.

“But that was not to be, and I led Bloom swiftly to the stables, filled not with horses, as I’d expected, but with beasts of such fury and pain that I could not stand to be near the dreadful things.” She sighed, sorrow filling her beautiful eyes. “They were so sad . . . terrified of what may become, angry at the world for everything.” She looked up now, meeting the gaze of the increasingly disturbed Mister Fox. “Angry at you, Mister Fox.” This comment was met with dark mutters, briefly lived, for the lady was not content to let them dawdle long over such thoughts.

“But it is not so, and it was not so, nor ever could it be so,” she murmured.

“Their eyes were the color of blood, and their hooves stained with a dark liquid that glistened in the evening light, fading quickly in a wash of crimson and gold. Bloom could no more stand their presence than I, and I left her to the meadow, trusting as always that she would not wander. I sped quickly through the gardens, taking little note of the beautiful statues I passed, portraying the hunt of beasts such as the unicorn, the wyvern or the common fox, the hunters always bewildered and dismayed. And in my dream I stopped at the first gate, reading an ancient inscription aloud.

Be bold, be bold

“It said, and I shivered at their words.

“Walking quickly through the gate, I sped along the marble path, following the blood trail with growing unease, wishing as in all dreams, that I would wake. I quickly passed through the threshold, where the words were again inscribed, but slightly different than before.

Be bold, be bold
But not too bold

“And I entered the door with a trembling heart, unknowing as to what lay before me, the dreadful horses lingering in my mind, their unearthly screams echoing in my ears. And it seemed to me that their screams came now from before me, but I quickly realized this was no animal screaming, but a maiden, a clear soprano with a voice like a bell, absolutely beautiful to hear. Her scream brought tears to my face, and in my dream, Mister Fox--you look so pale--you were climbing the stairs, and the trail of blood I’d thought belonging to a pig became evident. It was no pigs’ blood you so freely shed, Mister Fox, but the beautiful girl with the heavenly voice. It was her blood staining porcelain features, and it was then I saw the inscription above the stairway.

Be bold, be bold
But not too bold
Lest your heart’s blood
Should run cold

“But it is not so.

“I hid myself behind another of your black statues, Mister Fox, taking no note of the onyx nightmare, as I’d privately begun referring to them, praying to God that you would not see me. You were busy with the girl, though, and took no notice of me as I hid from your piercing gaze. She clung to the banister, the poor lady, and wailed pitifully, even now her voice was more beautiful than anything I’d ever heard.

“And it was not so.

“And you, Mister Fox, held high your sword, cursing her for a fool, annoyed by this unexpected delay. And in my dream, Mister Fox, you held the poor girl roughly by the shoulder, and your sword-- the blade of which you’re so proud --glistened in the dying light of the sun as it descended in a deadly arc, severing her hand from body with such force it flew straight toward me, landing in lap.

“Nor ever could it be so.

“And in my dream, Mister Fox, you searched for the awful thing, for on its finger was the wedding ring you’d bestowed to the beautiful girl, who lay now, sobbing most wretchedly between screams. After a while, a terribly long while it seemed to me, you gave up your frightful search, and dragged the young lady up the stairs, her blood spilling down the carved steps. I fled.” She met no one’s eyes, and continued petting her dog, and even the eyes of the great hounds were on the pale and worried Mister Fox.

“I tore through the gates, past the statues and pleasure gardens, appearing a deep, rich red in the fast fading light of the sun, past the nightmares with their hate filled eyes, to my dear, sweet Bloom, riding more quickly than I’ve ever had cause in my life. I returned to our home, our village, with a pain filled and terrifying burden on my person, and it was to this place that I came, Mister Fox.” She slowly moved her pup to floor, meeting the dismayed gaze of the said person.

“In your dream,” her father growled slowly, at that moment having much in common with the lady’s beloved dogs.

“Yes,” she sighed again. “In my dream.”

“But it is not so, and it was not so,” Mister Fox murmured, his voice deadened and icy in his amounting fear. “And God forbid it to be so!”

Rising with such fury, the lady Marry seemed transformed in the dim light, anger filling her voice as she stood. “But it is so and it was so, and here’s the hand I have to show!” With that statement, she cast the mangled thing on the table; knocking the flower vase to the ground she had thrown it with such force.

The people of the town rose then against the beautiful Mister Fox, blind to his torture, deaf to his cries of innocence and oddly fox-like yelps of pain.

Backing away from the gathered men, he fell to the floor as they rained blows upon him. “I killed no one!” he cried, curling in a fetal position, until his words slowly gave way to screams.

And the woman with the knifelike smile stood in the shadows, and watched, quietly taking the mangled hand from the table and securing it tightly in a silken pouch.

She watched, satisfaction filling her face.

And smiled.


The pleased looking boy pops up again, still grinning idiotically. "In case you didn't catch my strange reference, this is more or less a retelling of the old English fairy tail--" he snickers. " 'Mr. Fox.' Which BETER not be copy righted, 'cause that's just not fair."

"The pigs' blood isn't really part of 'Mr. Fox.'" Taise adds, somewhat muffled as he's slightly below the assembled people's ears. "Just a little something extra."

Looking somewhat pleading now, the crazy one turns to the audience. "Reviews would be nice, y'know. It tends to speed along the next part." Bowing childishly, he grins again. "But, totally not necessary. However you spell that. But nonetheless, MUCH appreciated!"

Bowing again, he takes his leave, long hair flying out of its messy ponytail as he bounces off.


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