Author's Note: I have revised this one since when I re-read it, I found it mortifyingly lacking in descriptions. Most of the dialogues lacked the descriptions that would've made the emotions with each words uttered more pronounced. I also altered some of the scenes to make them more emphatic, more able to leave a mark. I hope you found time to go over this chapter again. I still know this is a bit boring for a start but please give this one a chance like you did with my other stories especially the IA series. I'll do my best to bring out the best of this story. Thanks for the time.
Dedication: Anthius, Catelina, Diesty-chan, dreamingofflyingaway, Feathers of Snow: Honeypot, ultemecia, Izzy, MysticalDreamer32, bebopin'-dreamer, windsoffortune
"Against All Odds" – dialogue
'Against All Odds' – thoughts
Against All Odds - flashback
Summary: She's determined to settle scores and he's unconsciously seeking a way out of the life he had known since childhood. When fate brings them both together the result is something quiet far from what everyone expected.
Standard Disclaimer Apply
Against All Odds
Part I: GANESHAN STAND
A family is one's anchor…
Whether they are of your blood or not… they are part of yourself…
That's why we continue to strive even when crushed…
It is all…
---"For the sake of the family"---
She spun around and was just in time to deflect a blow that would have ended her life. Taking advantage of her agility and her enemy's temporary shock at her deflection, she plunged her sword into his chest and without mercy, plunged it deeper until most of the blade pierced through his body.
Eyes sparkling with hatred, she withdrew her sword making the man kneel in pain. She raised her sword sideways and in a blink of an eye, it ended. The man's life was severed together with his head. The body fell, and together with it, the rest of the army fell to their hands. Their captain was dead, his life taken by the commander of the defending army.
"Are you alright, Commander?"
She looked at her just arrived soldier. He was bloodied just like she was. She looked around and noticed that the early morning fog was just about disappearing. Dead bodies were everywhere, most of them from the attacking party, some from her army. She looked back at the soldier.
"Burn the corpses."
As he jogged away, she stared at her sword. It dripped with the blood of the men she had just killed that early morning.
"Are you alright?"
She looked up from her sword and stared at the eyes of her lady.
"Are you alright?"
Smiling, she turned to look back at her sword, now clean. "A dream."
The lady frowned. "You've been having too much of that lately. I think you're tired. Stop pushing yourself."
She shook her head. "No. I have to be at my best all the time. What are you doing here? You shouldn't be in the training grounds. Lord–"
"Father told me you're working too hard. If you do not rest, I would take that as an offense."
With slight frustration, she tried to sway the lady's mind. "Lady Yukari, I have to continue training. It doesn't mean that if there is no war I can relax."
"Commander," a male's voice interrupted.
They both looked at the bowed soldier.
"What is it?" She asked calmly.
"The Lord Ganesha asks for you to meet him in the stables."
"I see. Send word that I would be there after I send Lady Yukari back."
"As you say, Commander." With that, the soldier left.
She turned to the lady and was about to say something when the lady spoke.
"Fine. I'll leave. But the next time, I am not taking 'no' for an answer. Remember that."
She just smiled as she watched the Lady Yukari leave.
"My Lord," she acknowledge with a slightly bowed head.
Lord Balgus Ganesha, one of the best swordsmen in all of Gaea and her lord, slowly turned around from watching a stallion eat. "Has my daughter been giving you trouble?"
She smiled slightly as she looked up at the big bulk of her lord. "Just the usual pestering."
He laughed. "I see. She could be such a trouble. Perhaps I should have her married soon. But I do see her point. You've been working so hard. Come and join me for a ride."
"As you wish," she said with another slight bow.
Minutes later, in the field surrounding the mansion, two great stallions carried them with great speed. They rode through the fields, wind breezing by them. Everything was peaceful. Everything was beautiful. It was only after some time that they slowed down until the stallions were moving at a lazy pace.
"You excelled much through the years," commented Lord Ganesha as they continued their slow pace. "You're the best I have in my army."
She smiled slightly. "And I have you to thank, my Lord."
For minutes, silence passed. But it was not a silence deemed awkward rather, a silence full of companionable air.
Lord Ganesha looked upon her kindly. "Do you know that Yukari thinks that you should stop dressing up?"
She laughed. "Yes. And I do know her reason. That's so she might make me her doll."
He chuckled at her comment then. "You're right. But you do understand that she is looking for a sister, someone she could talk to about love and such things."
"I have no time for that. Those things are not for me." She held onto the reins tightly, as if reliving a past she wished not to experience again. "I know what the real world is and talking to her and agreeing with her outlook would be hypocrisy for me. We both see the world differently and it so happens that we see the opposites. She looks at the world through a colored glass window. I see it as it is, dull and dark. It's a charcoal painting of the oceans at storm, of a mausoleum at night, of a battlefield under a full moon when carrion birds feast on the dead bodies littering the land."
A lapse of silence fell before them and the slow pace of one of the horses stopped altogether. It was only when she was a few meters ahead that she stopped her horse, not looking back at her superior and merely waiting for him to comment on her.
"That is my fault," said he with a remorseful tone. "I have done not anything at all to stop you from looking at it at that standpoint."
She was quick to disagree, her loyalty standing firmly. "You're not to blame. We all have reasons for the things we do. I am lucky to be here and be what I am now. You have given me another chance at life and I had taken it and lived it this way. 'T was my choice."
He shook his head, as if it was his own way of berating her. "You are young. You do not see everything yet but sooner or later, you would understand that not everything is as ghastly as those you mentioned." He released one hand from its hold on the rein and patted the horse appreciatively. "Do you find this life ghastly?"
At this, she could not help but look back with vehemence blazing in her green eyes. "No. But I find the rest of the world as such."
"Child, you are but fifteen and yet," he paused and met her eyes with his own. "You close yourself to the possibilities that the world may have other colors beside black and white."
"My lord," she murmured, looking away for a moment up at the clear blue sky as if to gather strength for what she would say. "Perhaps I am wrong to perceive everything to either be solely black and white. But as it is well-known, only time has the power to change what people see." She returned her gaze back at him. "And yet I do doubt it would change mine."
He gave a nod of understanding, and yet, he questioned her so. "Why do you say that?"
She looked away once more, this time, to look at her hands as they gripped even harder on the reins. "I have so many dreams… bad ones. And even when I'm awake, I have them. I think they're versions of what my mind has of wars. I am marred and time might change those scars into nothing." Looking at him with desperation so great in her eyes, she wanted nothing more than flee at that moment. "But how can I see more than black and white when even as time goes by, I'm having so many bad images surging into me from my past and from out of nowhere?"
"Child," said Lord Balgus Ganesha, urging his horse to close the gap between him and the young girl. "Talking keeps the pain become more tolerable. That's why I coax you to talk at times. But perhaps the best thing to do is to listen to a certain need… You need to let go."
If possible, the desperation in her eyes increased. "I can't. Because if I do," her voice faltered for a moment, revealing how truly young she was to have faced the horrors of war can bring. "Then I'm letting all my loved ones disappear. My memories are all that I have left."
He smiled sadly. "I understand." Silence settled for a while. "I am heading back. You may linger longer if you so wish." He turned away but still spoke. "Child, I'm asking you to take it easy. You're being too hard on yourself."
A faint smile graced her lips as she watched him go, her heart pounding steadily with the fierce loyalty she had. As he disappeared from her sight, she wasn't able to stop herself from uttering, "I will protect this family, I promise."
"And with their hearts they promised to love each other even if they are against all odds."
She resisted the strong inclination to roll her eyes.
"Isn't it sweet?" Lady Yukari uttered as she held the book to her chest and hugged it tight.
The laughter of Lord Ganesha resonated in the parlor they were in. "My daughter, take into consideration that not everyone here is a romantic as you are."
At that, Lady Yukari turned to the other occupant of the room, who was sitting quietly near the massive fireplace, obviously looking ready to cover her ears and block out any romantic chatter. "Tomi, it is romantic, isn't it?"
The said person looked at her with impassive green eyes before looking back at the fire. "It's too idealistic. You should know that life is not a fairy tale."
With passion in her voice, Lady Yukari answered back with defiance. "Someday, I'll have you think that line!"
The lady was ignored and the lord of the place laughed once more. "Children, the two of you are so different that I find it amusing."
Before another word could be spoken, a footman entered.
"My lord, there is an urgent message from the King of Daedalus."
Lord Ganesha instantly felt something at herald and he looked at the young ones and had ordered them to leave.
"Tomi, what do you think is it all about?"
She looked at Lady Yukari and shrugged. "I have not the slightest of ideas."
"Don't shrug like that! You should shrug with more grace," reproached the lady with irritation in her voice.
"I don't need to act very gracefully lady-like. I am a commander of an army. You can't expect me to shrug like you and radiate an intimidating air now, can you?"
"But you're too pre–"
"Let that word or any other word that agrees with it pass not from your lips. It is quite disconcerting."
With a heavier stamp in her steps, the lady declared, "I'm having you married off."
Amused at the predictable reaction, she decided to push a little further. "I am having a haircut."
"What!" exploded the fiery lady. "But it doesn't suit you at all. I can remember when you came here and barely have a hair on your head. You looked so dreadful! No haircuts."
She stifled the smirk that threatened to form at the caringly meddling ways of her lady, her almost sister, who was rambling about what would look better for her.
It was in the middle of the night but she couldn't sleep. Images of a bloodied battlefield flooded her mind and made her remember a painful past that tore her inside. She had long stopped pacing her big room and had decided to go to the stables and go for a ride, hopping that the serenity of the surroundings would calm her. When she arrived there however, she was surprised to see the familiar figure of Lord Ganesha, her father figure for the past five years.
"My lord," she said as she watched him mount a stallion.
"I knew you'd come, child. And I had waited. Come, let's have a ride."
She nodded and mounted another stallion. They rode silently for many minutes until Lord Ganesha dismounted and stood by a pond. She followed him and stood by his side.
He looked upon her reflection in the tranquil waters and felt the tenderness he felt for his daughter. "Do you know that I had always looked upon you as my own child?"
Without a little hesitance, she answered, "Yes, my lord."
He smiled kindly, his mind retracing some fond memories that would never be lost to him. "You've been brought to me by the fates when you were but ten."
"I was dead and you gave me this life."
A soft chuckle and he answered back. "Your eyes asked me to, as your meek and scared voice did."
She shook her head slightly, flexing her knees and touching the surface of the water, simple fascination, much like a child's, engulfing her as the ripples formed from under her fingertips. "I was ready to die," she begun. "But you offered me a chance and I had asked then."
"And it did you good to live once more. Look at what you are now. You are better than any swordsman in Daedalus."
Smiling softly, she looked up at him, noticing that his kind eyes were on the water, perhaps on the ripples. "With the exception of you, my lord. I could never hope to be better than my mentor."
He turned to her and regarded her for a moment before speaking. "There is so much room for improvement, child, so much especially in you. A great swordsman always has a reason for being what they are."
"I have mine. And it is to protect those I love."
Searching eyes looked at her, seemingly troubled at her response. "If you have no one left to protect, what would your reason be then?"
She looked away from him and back at her reflection on the pond, distorted by the ripples that came about as she again touched the glassy surface. "I don't know, my lord."
"Then you are as lost as you are when the fates brought you to me."
"My lord," she replied as she straightened up but kept her eyes on the wrinkles on the otherwise still waters. "For five years," she paused for a moment. "My reason for living was to serve those I love, my last family. It had been my credo. I cannot immediately come up with something as solid as a reason for living. If," she trailed off and sighed with pain. "If my creed is taken from me, I have nothing else to live for but to avenge those I was not able to protect so long ago."
"You should know, child," he said with a slight note of disappointment in his voice. "That there is more to life than protecting and seeking revenge. If you live not for others, then you must live for yourself."
The silence that followed then grew too very thick that one could cut it with his own sword. But the stillness that shrouded them bothered not a great man such as Balgus Ganesha, for the father in him knew that this little girl he loved much like his own was only reflecting on his words. He knew he could not sway her thoughts with a few words alone, in such a short time that a few days can give; yet in his innermost being he was content. As long as she took his words and tried to see from his perspective before deciding on her stand, he would be at peace. She was, after all, a bright young lady with a passionate heart, who knew how to decide for her own.
"How," she begun, breaking the silence that had stretched on for many minutes. "Can one live for himself when he is alone? Didn't you teach me and Lady Yukari that no man is an island? That to exist is to co-exist?"
He smiled slightly, placing a heavy hand on her shoulder as he spoke. "I did. However, one must live first before he can find his essence. If by chance you are left nothing but yourself, you will die not if you give yourself the chance to find another purpose for you existence. How will you co-exist if you do not exist for yourself?"
When she did not answer, another silence ensued for some time.
"I can see that you live each day as it comes," he continued. "But if you do not think of the future every now and then, how will you anticipate what future possibilities there could be? I had watched you grow up with Yukari and I can see that you live for others alone. I want you to understand that your life is as precious as those you live for." A slight squeeze on her shoulder and she looked up at him. "If someday you shall find that you are left alone, you will know that your life ends not when others' lives do so."
She was silent, merely looking up at him with a silent plea of both fear and defeat in her eyes that she only showed to him and Yukari. "There is a war, isn't there? And you're making sure we'll be alright."
The great swordsman smiled. "Your perception amazes me. Yes, there is a war. Zaibach has grown powerful enough that it has started to conquer other countries. Unfortunately, Daedalus is one of the countries that it seeks to destroy."
"I will fight in your name," she declared with fervor.
"No," he denied with a shake of his head. "I have sent word to the King that I will go without you. Commander of my army as you are, you still are but too young to waste your life in a battlefield. I am not saying I do not trust your survival's instincts but you are," he said with a soft smile. "Precious to me as my daughter is. Tomorrow at dawn, I shall leave and join the war with half the army. And by then, I want you to think of what we have talked of tonight."
Her verdant eyes shone with defiance under the pale light of the moon. "I will fight by your side."
"I will be alright if that is what you are worried about." He added a chuckle to put her at ease. "I may be growing old, but I still am capable of fending for myself. Now go and sleep."
She never disobeyed him but at that moment she hesitated. "Does Lady Yukari know?"
"Yes. I have had a word with her before she went to bed. Now go back. I shall linger for a while."
Gazing at her mentor and father-figure for a while, she finally conceded, mounting her horse a few feet away. "Good night," said she and at last, rode off back to the mansion.
Many months later
Loud clattering of swords greeted Lady Yukari as she approached nearer the training grounds. When she finally reached her destination, she searched for her honey-brown haired 'sibling'.
"My lady," the soldiers immediately acknowledge with a bow.
The said honey-brown haired 'sibling' shook her head and approached, sheathing her sword while doing so. "What brings you here?"
"There is a message for you. It had the royal seal of Daedalus," said Lady Yukari as she handed the folded paper, sealed by a red candle wax with the King's royal seal.
"I see," she murmured and opened the letter, reading it, all the while draining away emotions from her countenance as she progressed on. At last finishing with the task at hand, she gave a deft twist of her wrist to close the letter, taking care to remain impassive as she did so.
"What is it about?" The eagerness in the lady's voice was not to be mistaken as a good sign, for eager as it was its enthusiasm seemed obligatory.
"The King wishes to see me," replied the green-eyed commander as she tucked the letter away in her armor.
Hesitating for a moment only, the lady voiced her thoughts. "It's about father, isn't it?"
She met her 'sibling's' eyes with steadiness. "The King wants me to join the war."
"I don't think that is all, Tomi," the lady rejoined with defiance prominent of a Ganesha. "Just tell me."
Green eyes looked distant for a moment before she looked at her 'sibling'. "Lord Ganesha is injured," she said, fighting off any emotion that may show in her voice. "And so the King wants me to go and take his place in being one of the commanding officers."
Lady Yukari shook her head. "Father told me he would not want you to come."
"He can't deny the King's orders," she countered in an even voice.
But the other would not back down. With conviction emitting from her every pore, the Lady Yukari raised her chin stubbornly. "You're only using that reason to go but in truth the only reason you want to go is not because of the King."
The soldiers looked uncomfortable at the apparent argument that would, without a doubt, follow. It was a known fact amongst them that both Lord Ganesha's children would not back down, would not tolerate a contradiction to what they believe in. But in those times that there had been chances for such disagreement, none of them had been based on situations such as this. They had all been things such as love not on duty of a family member to obey the wish of her father, nor of a duty of another family member to keep her father safe even against his wishes.
"I want Lord Ganesha alive," stated the commander firmly, looking sharply at the nearby soldiers and nodding for them to leave.
They complied with carefully hidden relief, not wanting to witness something personal between the persons they serve.
Lady Yukari waited for them to move away before launching on her contention. "As I do. But he wouldn't want you dead and so do I. You are a Ganesha now, Tomi, even if the blood that flows in you is that of the Kanzaki blood line. You are family and we don't let family members die."
She fixed Yukari a firm look. "That's why I must go," she said, still devoid of any emotion. "He can't and won't last long if I do not replace him."
The lady kept quiet for a while, thinking of the proper words that would get the other to give in. At last, she spoke. "Father doesn't want you to go to the war. I want him alive but I don't want to go against him. You've been both a son and daughter to him and I know that he would rather lose his life than have his children dead."
"I will not die," Tomi responded, irritation beginning to seep in her otherwise emotionless voice.
"How can you be so sure, Tomi?" countered the lady.
With impatience, she rejoined. "I just know."
"Then I'm sure you also know that father is never coming back."
Green eyes glinted with the silent anger that she could not hold back any longer. "How can you say that?"
Lady Yukari looked at her and for the first time since the talk started, smiled albeit sadly. "Instincts. I didn't want him to go but I knew I had to. Sometimes, you just feel that something will happen. When he talked to me the night before he left, he sounded like he was saying goodbye."
"You're reading too much and you're sensationalizing this," she scoffed, her anger getting the better of her.
"You know it, too, I'm sure. But you can't accept it."
Tomi clenched her hands tightly, desperately trying to put a leash on her mounting anger. But alas, commander of an army she may be, she was still a person; thus, could still lose to strong emotions that threatened to drown her. "How can you just accept it like that!" She snapped, her usually serene green eyes darkening as if in a storm. "He's your father! He's been my father! I care not if he sounded like he's saying goodbye because I'm not letting him die!"
"It's Tomi," she nearly snarled in anger. "Hitomi died a long time ago, with the village that burned to the ground."
She spun around and left Lady Yukari standing there and looking at her retreating figure.
Merely two days later, Hitomi who had been known as Tomi for the past five years, was almost prepared to go; almost for she had yet to settle the argument between her and Yukari.
The said lady looked up from the book she was reading and stared at the eyes that reminded her of what she always loved most in her surroundings. "I know, Tomi."
Hitomi, with the soft emotions she reserved for her family alone, smiled and sat at the foot of Yukari's chair, on the plush bear skin that covered the cold stone floor. "I still do need to apologize. I'm sorry for the way I acted but you do know I will not be sorry for what I believe in. I cannot accept something until it happened already. There's always a chance, isn't there? That is what is living is all about."
"True," agreed the young lady. "So then I must, in turn, apologize for the way I acted."
The smile on her face widened. "Apology accepted."
"Good. Father always told us that we shouldn't keep grudges in our family. And as for your apology, I accept it as you do mine."
She did not want another serious argument and so, with a little hesitance she never showed in other people's presence, she asked. "Then you will let me go and bring him back?"
Lady Yukari's eyes turned sad. "I had a dream," she begun softly. "Do you want to know? You might tell me that I'm sensationalizing again."
Even when a sense of foreboding was upon her, she gave a nod for Yukari to continue.
"Tomi, you came to me and said goodbye."
"But I'm not saying goodbye now," interrupted the commander, now beginning to feel remorse wash over her at the direction the talk was clearly heading at.
"You are. I just know it. And in my dream, you were crying. Do you want to know why?" Not waiting for a reply, the lady continued. "Because you saw father die."
Hitomi's eyes widened and the initial shock of what her 'sibling' had said rendered her speechless for a time enough for Yukari to continue her appalling words.
"In my dream, you wanted to come back. But you couldn't. And soon your eyes darkened. You called for me but I couldn't come to you. I don't know why it is so but I couldn't come no matter how hard I tried. Do you want to know what shamanic books say about that?"
"No," she replied, finally recovering and looking away as if to shield the sudden fear in her emerald orbs. "Just tell me another dream."
"You saw me die," again begun the lady, this time, her voice clearly saying she did not want any interruption to be made. "You wanted to go away but you couldn't and your eyes darkened. You called for father but he couldn't come to you. It's just the same as the other dream only father and I were switched places. Do you want to know what they mean?"
Resisting the impulse to stand up and leave, she answered "No. I want to know none of anything about that."
The lady kept quiet for a while as if thinking of what to say next, sensing the raging emotions in her companion. "I'm not saying these things so you would not go or you would go. Perhaps you are right. I am reading too much and that I'm sensationalizing things. You may go or you may stay. I will always support you. Father said that is what a real family should do; support each other."
Hitomi looked back and stared at her 'sister's' eyes, sure that her fears were clearly written on her face, before laying her head on Lady Yukari's lap in her attempt to finally hide the vulnerability she had not felt since she stepped foot in the Ganeshas' territory five long years ago. "I don't want to leave you but I have to bring him back for both of us."
"I understand," said Lady Yukari gently, her free hand stroking Hitomi's short hair. "Would you promise me something?"
She would've bitten her lip if she was more of a girl. "Anything."
In a clear voice, the lady said her request. "Live not only for others but for yourself."
"Don't talk like that," she chastised, the vulnerability in her increasing more, as the knots growing in her stomach twisted.
"Just promise me."
"Alright," said she after a long moment had gone. "I promise."
Lady Yukari smiled gently. "You will always be my sister, right… Hitomi?"
Closing her eyes, she whispered. "Right… Yukari."
Lady Yukari watched as her sister for five years left. She smiled sadly, certain that it was the last time she would see her dearest Hitomi, much like her loving father. For she knew, dreams as they were, they were omens.
But she had to let Hitomi go. Family members should support each other and a real family should not let family members die.
"The books say it is Death, my Hitomi." Tears sprung to her eyes then, tears that her stubborn Ganesha side would not let surface when Hitomi had been there. "Goodbye, sister." And slowly, surely, the tears fell.
The best thing you can give to another is love…
But sometimes… the dividing line of what is love and what is hate is blurred by something that strikes as quick as lighting…
---"For Love is Selflessness"---
She stared hard at the map in front of her as the other commanding officers argued about the strategies.
It has been months since she came to the war. The time passed too quickly for her and for those who had died in the battle. But it also dragged on slowly for her and for those who were suffering because of the war.
It was strange. But every night, she would dream of the destruction happening, of the lives being ended. There was too much of the real cruelty around and it reminded her of how early she had begun to see reality. But then, she was not the only fifteen-year-old soldier in the battle. No, there were many more, most of which had been in the front line even before she had arrived. She would've done something about it, but she knew that in her waking moments, she did not have time to think of those who died in the war.
But then, at night, or at times when she closed her eyes to rest, she would see in her mind's eye those dead soldiers both from their side and the enemy's. They haunted her, fighting to frighten the little girl in her that died long ago. There are times, in the months that passed, that bitter memories of her painful childhood experiences from the war would come back, cutting her, hurting her, killing her. It had been down in slow succession as if to prolong her torture, as vengeance for every life she took away in the battlefield.
"That is suicide!"
She was jolted out of her musings by the exclamation of one general and the loud thud that his fists caused as they hit the table. Looking around, she saw the grim expressions of the officers. It gave her a sense of depressing familiarity, as if they had been through this situation before. Perhaps they had been or perhaps she was merely imagining things out of fatigue. After all, it had been months of hard survival, months of living by the rule 'kill or be killed'.
"I need some air," she said, quickly exiting the tent as if to run away from the reflection she was previously engaged in.
Outside smelled of lives' end, it had since even before she came, and yet it still gave her the same feeling of dread. Each moment in the battlefield, countless bodies had fallen. How many lives had already been lost? How much more lives would be lost before everything was over?
"You must see now why I did not want you to come."
"My lord," she said, as she walked towards her approaching father figure.
"It surprises me that you flinch not in battle."
Ignoring the shiver that ran down her spine, she countered with a question. "Why would I flinch?"
"You are but a child," he answered, looking at her thoughtfully as if looking into her soul. "There is much carnage in the battlefield."
She looked away; again ignore the shiver in her spine. "This war did not give me my first kill."
He nodded, remembering what she must have remembered at that moment. They fell silent then, merely looking at the blackness of the heavens at night.
It was a nearly starless night, the heavens above seemingly uninterested or rather disgusted at the gaeans' barbaric actions over the months that passed. Even the wind had not come, perhaps sickened by the mere idea of carrying the scent of death as it moved.
"You should return to Yukari. You do not need to be in this battle and make sure all the time that I would be alright."
Hitomi looked away from the sky and turned to look at Lord Ganesha. "I would go if you would."
"Child," he said softly, his heart warming at the young girl beside him. "If it is my time, then I can do nothing about that. I must face it bravely like a true warrior. My heart is proud at your selflessness but I do not want to risk you. In your age, you still have so many years ahead of you; years that could be spent anywhere but here."
She shook her head. "But if I leave you alone here, I would repeat what I hated the most from my past. I wasn't able to protect those I loved." Her green eyes, its color barely decipherable in the dimness that surrounded them, flickered with unnamed emotions. "I don't know if fighting in the war without having any misgivings in taking another's life is right or wrong. But I do know I have to fight for what I believe in. And I believe that a true family would not let family members die."
Lord Ganesha smiled although he felt a deep sadness. "You keep your promise much."
With a sigh, she affirmed what her foster father had known for a long time. "I live for others."
The heat of the battle was intense, even more intense than the previous months of battles. He knew it was time. He could feel himself losing little by little.
Blood was everywhere, on his opponents, on him. But from the corner of his eyes, he saw her, the best student he ever had fighting for what she believed in. Even as she was ending other people's lives, he knew he had not made a mistake when he first decided to bring her with him and make her one of the family.
He was not one who approved of slave trade. Booties of wars are, most often than not, innocent people who were caught in the middle. But it was like this everywhere, especially in the winning countries. As it was, Egzardia was Daedalus' ally. However, his reason for being in Egzardia was to attend Egzardia's grand celebration in which he was required to come as he was a member of nobility in Daedalus.
And now that the celebration is over, it was time to go. But seeing the booties of the war being sold was too much. Perhaps if he brought one of the children to his country as his daughter's handmaiden, he would give a better life to even one innocent person.
As a result of the thought, he bought the green-eyed girl who was silent and looked as if she was trapped in her own world. There had been many like her but when one of the slave traders jerked her face up, he saw the most wonderfully green eyes he had even gazed upon. But they were empty as if someone had chased away the child's soul.
He knew it was so because of the war and a surge of guilt came upon him. Without a doubt, he knew his daughter's heart would sink if she saw this. But then, perhaps if he brought her along, that emptiness would fade away and the green eyes that reminded him of verdant fields before they were bathed in blood, would truly stand out and make his daughter, who had always loved grassy fields, happy.
His sword pierced through an enemy's body. He spun back and blocked another soldier's sword.
The battle was lasting longer than before and it was draining him. The months that passed, sleep, food, and water, had been a hard commodity; and the lack of the three had been taking they're toll on all warriors, not exempting a warrior even such as he was.
The travel back to Daedalus was long and went through dangerous roads at some points. The last dangerous road was near and when they finally were traveling at that part, bad luck struck.
Bandits, at least seven had attacked them and there were only four of them including the girl. He had sent his men ahead of him by days and at that moment, it seemed like a bad move.
All the fighting was fierce and the child was pushed to the side. She stared at the violence in front of her, green eyes widening as each second passed. The eyes filled up with tears of fear and soon of hatred – of deep-rooted hatred.
A fallen sword of a dead man was picked up by small hands, and in the next instant that followed, the little girl had stabbed to death some of the bandits who were busy fighting the other three men.
When the fighting had ended, he had looked at the girl, standing there, eyes on the ground. He had approached her and she dropped the sword, tears spilling from her scared emeralds.
"I'm sorry," she said in a shaky voice. "I'm ready to die now."
He raised her tear-streaked face and looked at her, his own fatherly instincts beating on him almost painfully.
Three soldiers were on to him. As he fought them, another one entered the fighting.
It was Hitomi.
Her stance and attacks were smooth, almost like a dance, but he knew that she had so much more to improve for. She was young and had many more years of improvement ahead of her, for she had so much more advantages than any he was able to teach.
She was faster and more agile. She was a quick-learner. And she, above all, was ready to accept what was given to her, whether it was a punishment or a chance.
"Ready to die?" He asked softly, much like he would if his daughter was the child before him.
"My p-punish-ment… for ki-kil-ling," stammered the little girl of infinitely green eyes. She looked younger than his daughter with her much thinner, more fragile form.
His fondness for children made his already soft heart melt for this little girl. "How old are you?"
She gave him a nervous look. "Ten, sir."
He was even more partial to her then, she being the same age as his daughter even when she looked so much younger. "If I give you a new life, would you take it?"
Her green eyes widened slightly. "But I-I have no-wh-where to go, sir. I-I h-have no one left."
He smiled kindly, stooping down and taking the little girl in his arms. "You have now."
He had always believed that what you plant will be what you reap. That was the reason why he had taught Yukari never to judge others by the rank. For him, love begets love and it could be shown in many ways.
He had a reason for being in the war, he, having both needed and wanted to protect his family, knowing with a fondness that his family wanted to protect him in turn. He was sure that the reason Hitomi had not come for many months after he went away was because Yukari had tried to prevent Hitomi from coming. Yukari knew that he would die inside if his only family, his children, would die.
But he also knew that when Yukari's protection came from protecting his wishes, Hitomi's protection was from her presence.
Both his children had shown their love…
Yukari looked at the child in front of her, a child who looked too fragile to be of the same age as her. "Is she a girl, father?"
He smiled. "Yes."
"Why does she have no hair?" The girl with long, dark brown hair asked out of curiosity, circling the thin, hairless little creature that tugged at her soft heart.
"Well, most slaves are shaved before they are sold."
The little lady wrinkled her nose slightly and stopped in front of the little girl. She bent slightly and peered at the face of the new girl who was looking at the ground. Then the lady smiled and looked at her father. "She has green eyes! Can she be my playmate?"
But then, little Yukari bit her lower lip, for it would not stop its trembling. She truly did pity the little girl. It was surely atrocious for the green-eyed one if she had been enslaved at such a tender age.
"What is it, Yukari?" He asked, although inside, he fondly knew what she must have been thinking of.
"Can she be my sister?" She looked up at him with pleading brown eyes. "I always wanted you to bring one home. And besides," she paused, looking back at the little girl. "I do not think a younger girl like her would be suited to be my handmaiden. And even if she was, I… I do not think it is right to… to abuse her like this. Father, I always despised the war for doing this to innocent people. And if I were to make a handmaiden out of one child victim, I would be far wicked than those who oppress people for glory."
He could not but help smiling once more at his daughter, whose heart was truly worth more than all the treasures he had as a royal blood. "If you want her to be so, she will be a Ganesha just like you and me."
"Oh father, that is wonderful! Now I have someone aside from you!" exclaimed little Yukari as she went to reward her father with a warm hug that her little arms could afford to give such a huge bulk of a man as her father was.
"But I will train her to be the best student I could have."
She drew back, her nose wrinkling once more. "But father," she she in an appalled tone. "She's a girl! She should wear pretty dresses."
He kneeled in front of his daughter, tucking a stray strand of dark hair behind a small ear. "I had asked her for what she wanted me to give to her as a new life before we arrived, and," he said slowly, "She told me she wanted to be my student."
"But father–" She begun to argue, trying to wheedle her father into her way of thinking.
"I will protect you."
Both father and daughter turned to the little girl because of what she had uttered for the first time since their arrival.
More soldiers were still coming and fighting. Many of their comrades had already fallen. Zaibach had much reinforcement whilst they have been seemingly forgotten by their Egzardian ally.
"We must retreat!" One of the officers shouted.
"Child, let's go."
"Yes, my lord."
As they retreated, they kept fending off the attacks. And he could see that Hitomi was trying very hard to take on most of the soldiers coming in their direction.
His other daughter was trying so hard to follow what he had always told them.
"Tomi?" Yukari asked, her slight brows meeting as she posed her question.
"Yes. So people would think I'm a boy."
"Why a boy?"
"Because girls are always looked down upon when it comes to swords," the green-eyed girl said.
The new girl smiled. "But I will protect you."
Yukari smiled widely, embracing her adopted sister. "Father always told me that we shouldn't let family members die. Does that mean you accept being my sister now?"
"Oh, Lady Yukari, I am nothing but a slave girl."
Yukari frowned and pouted. "Not to me. Not to father."
Lord Ganesha nodded and smiled at what he heard his daughter say to the new girl.
Yes, she was trying so hard. But it didn't surprise him.
That was one of her advantages…
She was always working too hard.
"You're working too hard. You should rest," Yukari reproached, her delicate hands on her hips, attempting to look intimidating.
But Hitomi was not to be swayed as she just flashed a happy grin. "If I want to be the best, I should work hard."
"But Tomi," Yukari wheedled. "It's almost supper and it's dark."
"Then have the footmen escort you home," argued the other girl, refusing to relinquish her hold on the sword she held.
"But I want to go home with you," countered Yukari stubbornly, her voice taking the tone that showed she was about to begin a temper tantrum.
Hitomi sighed and nodded hesitantly. "Alright. But I'll practice on the way."
"That would be enough, child," he interrupted and received a big smile from his daughter.
"See? Even father thinks it's enough."
He had not made a mistake when he first decided to bring her with him and make her one of the family. And as he saw her dedication to fight for what she believed in, for what she loved, he knew furthermore that he had also not committed a mistake when he decided to make her the commander of his army.
"Commander?" asked the green-eyed girl in an incredulous tone.
"Yes. You're fit for that," he said as he gave her a sword.
She looked at it and immediately one word struck her mind; it was beautiful.
The tip of the sword was made of gold and just inches away from the tip was a strange blue crystal with little white clouds in it. Its blade was long and was remarkable, almost glowing like the fluorescent silver of the moon. Then, inches just before the hilt, was the same blue and white crystal. It was set in a golden blade that stretched on towards the handle. But between the crystal and the handle was the golden metal branching out like wings of a phoenix. The handle was longer than most swords she had seen. She could use both her hands side by side on the handle and still have a space for one more hand. And at the tip of it was a third and smallest blue and white crystal.
She had never seen anything like the sword before her.
"That sword has been passed on from my ancestors. It was said that those crystals came from one single crystal that had been called the Mystic Moon. Child, those three are the only ones remaining."
"And they are mine?" She asked, her voice still infused with incredulity.
He smiled. "Yes, child."
It took her a while to finally regain her ability to speak at such a gesture, such a gift, such an honor. "This beautiful sword must have a name. Is it called the Mystic Moon, too?"
He nodded. "It is."
At this, Hitomi smiled proudly. "And it's mine," she whispered, clutching at the handle as if she was never going to let go. "I have you to thank, my lord; you and Lady Yukari."
"And yourself as well," he added, smiling kindly.
Arrows were soon raining upon the battlefield. Many were injured and many died. Hitomi was hit by an arrow on her lower leg and she could hardly run as the arrow pierced through her. She tried harder but the pain kept slowing her down.
Lord Ganesha slowed down and tried to help her.
"My lord, I beg of you to go," she pleaded, her eyes frantic at the thought of him slowing down to help her. "I will catch up."
"We don't let family members die."
And there was nothing she could do. After many minutes, Hitomi finally fell to the ground. She could not stand up and Lord Ganesha carried her, leaving himself vulnerable to sword and arrow attacks. When they had reached their retreat fortress, she was set down. It was then she noticed the arrows at Lord Ganesha's back.
"Help Lord Ganesha!" She yelled with fear and panic, her eyes dead-frightened at the insistent thought of death coming.
The healers fussed over both of them but she angrily pushed them away from her, commanding them, her voice harsh from a mixture of anger for herself and fear for her foster father. "Leave me! Help him!"
Notwithstanding what was happening, she limped away, the sting of the arrow on her lower leg completely unable to overcome the sting in her heart.
Many hours later, she was already patched up, the arrow at her lower leg having been pulled out and the wound treated as well as her other injuries. She struggled to go to Lord Ganesha and had finally reached where he was in the fortress to find him very weak.
She ignored the pain that her body was experiencing and came to him. "My lord."
"No, child," he interrupted. "In this last moment, call me father. I had always looked upon you as I had Yukari."
The tears stinging her eyes before came back with a vengeance. Before any second more could pass, they were already flowing down her cheeks in twin rivulets.
Lord Balgus Ganesha smiled. "So you know that I will not last long."
She shook her head, her voice catching in her painfully dry throat. "That's not true," she said, choking with her tears. "You'll live through this. We will go back home together."
He looked upon her for a long time, the tears flowing from the verdant eyes both he and Yukari loved so much affecting him. "Stubborn as always, my dear, dear Hitomi."
"We're growing old," Yukari complained.
Hitomi laughed. "But of course. We can't stay young forever."
"But I want to be a child forever," the other continued to whine.
She looked impatiently at Hitomi. "So that I wouldn't have to leave."
"Yes," the Lady Yukari said, irately clutching the brush in her delicate hand. "Leave to marry so that two places may live more harmoniously."
Hitomi thought for a moment. "Then you can marry and stay here. Or if not, I will visit you."
"But it's still not the same. Right, father?"
He offered a smile. "Perhaps yes, perhaps no, my dear. But we'll still be a family."
Green eyes sparkled with agreement. "Lord Ganesha is right. Even when we're far, we'll still be a family. See? Even if I'm not really your sister, we're still a family."
"You're right!" exclaimed Yukari, now smiling. "No matter what happens, we'll be a family! Let's make a promise, come on. Father, do you promise?"
"Yes, my dear," he agreed. "I promise that we'll always be a family no matter what happens."
"Wonderful! Now Tomi, it's your turn."
"I promise that we'll always be a family no matter what happens," complied Hitomi with all the sincerity in her.
"Now, it's my turn. I promise that we'll always be a family no matter what happens. Now that we've made our promise, we should always remember what a true family does. They love one another and lots and lots of other good things like support, protection and those things."
Hitomi nodded and he just smiled. Yukari beamed at back them before turning back to the girl beside her and giving the emerald-eyed Hitomi an affectionate hug.
They had spent the time talking until at last, the light of Lord Balgus Ganesha's life was extinguished. She had cried silently and kept on remembering that his death was because he remembered what a true family does to each of its member. She wanted to blame herself but he had made her promise him to not do so.
By the end of that eventful day, he was buried and she was forced to leave his grave when the Zaibach forces attacked once more. Soon enough, they were forced to retreat and retreat as each day passed. It was blatant that they were losing the war. Zaibach had become too powerful.
Her dreams from before each came true and when a day came that she dreamed of seeing Daedalus being attacked, she had tried to go back to Daedalus to rescue Yukari. But the fates were against her as she was captured in one of the battles. Thrown in a fortress' dungeon along with others who survived, she wondered what had gone wrong, wondered why Egzardia had not sent any reinforcements as planned.
As each day passed, they grew little and little, each of her companions losing their lives to brutal execution.
She had wondered what had befallen Daedalus and Yukari for that matter. Her answer came to her after many weeks of captivity and it was a cold stab to her heart when she heard from the conversations of the guarding soldiers that Daedalus was burned to the ground and that the upper class had either been executed or enslaved.
Her hatred grew more and it awakened a long buried hatred from a past before she became one of the Ganeshas.
'If I cannot take the leaders down, then I'll bring some of the instruments with me to my death,' she vowed the day before she was taken away from the dungeons to be executed.