Sacrifice

Composed by Chiaki Nozomi

La Pucelle does not, nor will it ever, belong to me.  Original characters are my property, and will always belong to me. 

New York City, 2047

Sunlight caressed the face of a teenage girl just moments from blooming into an adult.  Her china-doll face wrinkled in disapproval before she threw a pillow over her head, then resumed sleeping. 

Outside the city bustled with its self important ordeals, each person consumed in their own thoughts and lives.  On a street corner a man played his guitar, fingers flying over the strings gracefully, creating a wonderful soundtrack for passersby's' mediocre lives.  Neither noticed him, nor cared to notice.  Sometimes the children would look back, eyes wide with astonishment, but the ever tug of their parents kept the man from being more than a mere thought. 

Not that he cared.  The music was, and always will be, for himself. 

"Prier," Madame Aloutte called, rapping on the pine wood, "Are you awake?"  She opened the door and walked in, then chuckled.  Not once in her five years of being a benefactor had her little doll woken with the sun.  "Prier," she said while pulling the blanket off the bed, "In about five minutes you leave with Master Noir in preparation for your Coming of Age Ceremony."

"I don't wanna grow up," Prier mumbled in her sleep and curled herself into a ball to keep warm.  Madame Aloutte nodded and walked over to Prier's bedstand, which had the remains of last night's water.  It wasn't quite cold enough, but it would do.  Madame Aloutte daintily pulled the corner of the pillow off of Prier's face, then dumped the water on her face. 

Instantly Prier woke, and she jumped out of the bed, glaring.  "You –"

"You have three minutes before seven, and if Master Noir leaves without you, he shall be in a sour mood all day.  I'd suggest getting dressed, then yelling at me."  With a smirk, Madame Aloutte left the room. 

Prier glared at the door, as if it could communicate her anger to Madame.  Yell at Madame?  It wasn't ladylike.  Prier knawed on her cheek, trying to calm her anger.  By all means she should be thankful of Master Noir and Madame Aloutte, for they took her in at 13 (an age considered nearly ancient in the orphanages) and gave her the finest education, clothes, food -  life – possible. 

But the two weren't just any old rich couple, no, they were a powerful old rich couple.  Master Noir controlled the development of oxygen fueled vehicles and other technological 'miracles' while Madame Aloutte's research facility and hospital were the finest in the world.  In fact, the reason the two married was not for love, but for the fact that their strengths could benefit each other.  Sure, the two lived in the same home and appeared at public events together, but the truth was that the marriage was strictly related to business. 

And now, their darling little daughter was turning eighteen and growing up!  And of course the only way to become an adult would be to hold an extravagant party and invite the entire state!  Prier grumbled as she fumbled with the layers of dresses.  The latest trends had women dressing like Victorian dolls, petite and prim and perfect. 

Prier longed for the days when wearing dirty torn jeans was acceptable.  She opened her window for some fresh air, and looked down onto the busy streets.  She watched them move along like little ants, smiling.  She focused on a corner where a man played his guitar.  "Good morning Mr. Guitar Player.  What tune are you playing today," she greeted.  For about three months now that man played his music in the morning.  Not once had Prier heard his songs, but she knew they were special, despite the fact that no one ever seemed to stop and listen to them.  Oh, to be free like that again . . .

"Mistress Prier," the maid said, entering, "Madame Aloutte wishes you to come down immediately else she will be forced to take matters into her own hands."  Prier sighed and followed the maid, grumbling to herself about the annoyances her life contained.

"Pray tell," Aysel murmured in mild surprise, "They were all reborn into the same time.  And managed to congregate in the same city, no less," she chuckled. 

"Why does this surprise you, Milady," Hasana asked while pouring a cup of tea, "You watched over each birth." Aysel nodded, but smiled still. 

"I wonder if their souls shall intertwine again?"

"Milady already knows the answer to that," Hasana replied, laughing softly.  "What Hasana wishes to know is whether they shall help thee once more."

Aysel twirled a lock of hair around her finger, searching.  She stopped abruptly and frowned.  "The roles have been reversed – and the key players have as well.  Nothing can remain constant with the past." 

Hasana bit her lip in worry.  "What are we to do Milady?"

Aysel laughed and pointed to her table, strewn with various tarot cards.  "The very thing we do everyday."  Several bells jingled, and a nervous woman entered, calling for anyone.  Hasana nodded and escorted the woman to the Star Room, where the Goddess of Light preceded to read her fortune.

"Good Morning Lady Prier," Master Noir greeted as they took a seat in the back of their car, "I trust you had a nice night?"

"No bad dreams here," Prier exclaimed, "But why do I have to get up so early?  Could the banquet planning wait for later?"

"Later," Master Noir questioned with a smile, "Later for you is next week." 

"It's a little last minute," Prier replied, "But its better that way!  Won't be so boring, that's for sure." 

Master Noir laughed, a rich, smooth sound, "My dear Prier.  All these years and we haven't hammered the spirit out of you." 

"Of course you haven't," Prier replied with a half laugh, "And ye shalt never!" Both laughed at this, then spent the rest of the car ride speaking of trivial matters.

"Have you decided on music Prier,"  Lisia asked, scribbling things on her notepad even though Prier had yet to reply.

"Music?  For what?"

Lisia glared, "The banquet, Madame Prier!  You must have some sort of background music!"

Prier's lips made a small 'o' and she bit her lip in thought.  Surely the logical choice would be a string quartet, but in all honesty that music put her to sleep.  "They wouldn't appreciate a rock band either," Prier thought with a snicker, "Which leaves nothing.  But then four eyed psycho over there will freak if I say no music…"  Prier thought about doing it anyway, just to see Lisia's face, but the rat would tell Master Noir and she would have to deal with his wrath . . .

"… Spanish guitars are lovely.  There's always the solo celloist as well.  Well, almost any soloist sounds good and …"

Guitar?  Soloist?  "That man," Prier exclaimed, "I want that man to play at my banquet!"

"That . . . man," Lisia questioned, pushing her glasses up her nose, "Who is this man?"

"A solo guitarist!  He plays every morning on the corner outside our apartment."

"On the corner . . . Prier!  I will not book some hobo off the street!  Give me a published, named guitarist!"

Prier glared, "It is my banquet, Lady Lisia; and I am the planner, Lady Lisia; and remember that you are just the organizer, Lady Lisia; therefore what I say is word.  We will have that man play at my banquet, and no one else." 

Lisia's shocked face almost beat her mental image of earlier, but not quite.  Prier frowned.  "Yeap, still boring."  

"Lady Lisia informed me that you only have about a day left of planning.  Isn't that grand?"

"It'll be better when the entire occasion is done and over with," Prier replied snottily.  "Can't we just cancel the occasion and have a nice family dinner or something?" 

"Well, that would be atrocious.  The media is just waiting for my little doll's premiere! Can you imagine what they'll do if I cancel it," Madame Aloutte replied. 

"Oh, the horror," Prier replied melodramatically. 

"Lady Lisia also informed me of your musical choice."  Prier held her breath and bit her lip, "And while I do approve of your choice, we simply do not know if he is available for hire."

"You want me to ask him, don't you," Prier replied in monotone.  "Sheesh.  I'll do it."

"Good," Aloutte replied, "I recommend you go to bed early tonight.  I'll be waking you an hour early so Master Noir will not be left waiting."

"An… hour!?  Madame Aloutte!"

Prier's heartbeat echoed in her ears.  Something about the stranger on the street made her nervous.  What could she say to him?  "Hi, I've looked out my window every morning to see you playing your guitar and even though I've never heard you play I want you to play for my banquet even though I really don't want to have one because it's a waste of time and…" Prier took a deep breath.  Meeting the man shouldn't have bothered her this much.

After all, for the first time in her life she woke up early. 

He wore the same long navy coat that resembled a mix of the Victorian fad and a more modern style.  His guitar looked old, but not beaten, more like an old storyteller or an aged wine.  His fingernails were short and clipped, not bitten, and his hands danced across the strings as a butterfly darts among flowers. 

Prier could only stand and listen, in awe.  The song played slow, then sped up as if a supernatural force had possessed him, then slowed as it left.  Even as the song finished and he seamlessly started another, Prier didn't dare to make herself known.  It felt like she peered through a window at another world, at a man whose only words were music. 

Suddenly the song stopped mid note and he looked up at her.  Prier jumped in surprise and stared down at him nervously.  His hair color resembled her own – a daring crimson red, his skeptical emerald eyes seemed to see through her, his lips twisted downward in a frown.  Prier bit her lip; did she offend him?

"What do you want," he growled, voice rich with sarcastic and skeptical nature.

"You," Prier replied, and it was the man's turn to be surprised.  Prier almost smirked but controlled herself. 

"Who are you," the man stuttered out in surprise.

"Prier," she replied, deciding to omit her family name.  The hoopla surrounding her parents was more than annoying.  "Your turn.  Name."

"Croix," he replied, leaving out his last name as well.  "You're the first person to actually stop and listen.  Why," he inquired, giving a stare that Prier knew he gave often. 

Prier shrugged, "You just stood out, that's all."  Both were silent, eyeing each other, deducting personality points by sheer body language. 

"What is your real name," Criox asked, eyes narrowing, "A normal person doesn't stand like that."

Prier wrinkled her nose in confusion.  How was she standing differently from any other normal person?  "My real name is Prier, Croix."  Croix kept his glare, and Prier returned it with an equally vicious stare.  They slowly morphed it into a staring contest and finally both burst out laughing. 

"Been awhile since I've met a feisty girl like you," Criox said, putting his guitar back in its case.

"What's that supposed to mean," Prier asked. 

Criox chuckled and patted her on the head, "Nothing.  Come on and I'll treat ya to a cup of coffee." 

"Were you going anywhere special?"

"Oh, not really," Prier replied as she got a mental image of both Madame Aloutte and Lisia beating her brains out for being late, "Just a little morning walk."

"Jailbait," Croix stated, and Prier blinked in confusion.  "You're only fourteen, aren't you?"

Prier's jaw dropped.  "I am seventeen years old!"

"Almost legal jailbait then," Criox replied with a smirk.  "When's your birthday?"

"Next Sunday," Prier replied, and debated on asking him right away.  Would the conversation be shortened? 

Criox nodded, surprised.  "A little closer than what I expected.  Parents making a big deal?"

Prier nodded, "Worse than a big deal.  First there's the Coming of Age Ceremony, then there's the banquet, then there's the ball, and finally the Closing Ceremony!  Worst of all is that they're making me plan it all.  I'm about to kill the organizer."

Criox stared blankly at her, and Prier blushed.  Normal teenagers simply went out and got drunk at some club, didn't they?  Ah well.  No undoing it now.  Get down to business.  "I want you to play at the banquet."

Croix blinked in confusion, yet still said, "How much?"

"One hundred an hour plus tips."

"And this is for your banquet."

"Yes."

Croix laughed, "I knew you were some rich girl." 

Prier's eyes widened, "And you didn't say anything?"

Croix smirked, "I wanted to see how the little princess acted out in the real world."

"And you got what you expected, didn't you," Prier replied with a smirk of her own.

"The little girl has a bit of spunk," Croix said with a respectful nod.

Prier grinned, "That's because I was an orphan until five years ago."  Criox's eyes widened in shock, and Prier rose.  "I'll stop by tomorrow morning with the paperwork, so be out there, okay?"

Criox scoffed, "When am I not there?"

"And don't stop in the middle of the song next time," Prier chided, and waltzed out of the shop. 

Croix stared at the entrance until a waitress returned with the menu.  "Hello…Maria.  Have you heard of a girl who was adopted by rich parents five years ago?"

Maria's eyes lit up, "Oh, you must be talking about Noir and Aloutte's child!  To tell you the truth, no one's ever seen her, but on Sunday it's her eighteenth birthday and they're revealing her to the world."

"They're going to release that Tiger from her cage," he replied, then started laughing, "I love it!"

A/N:  Yay! The second time I've written a fic that is the second fic up on ff.net category! (the first time was for the anime/manga GALS!) This is quite fun to write, since I haven't done a modern story in awhile, and I know that Noir and Aloutte are OOC, but don't worry – there's a reason for that!