Fai sat outside for a long while after that, staring up at the brightening sky with blank eyes. Ice that even the sun couldn't thaw.

He was conscious of all the happenings around him -- the thin, tall trees of this world shaking and shivering when a chill of wind danced past; animals in the surrounding forest clicking and chirping, some making noises that couldn't be imitated; a hole forming in his heart that he didn't know how to mend or if he would even gain in it being healed -- but ignored each one. They had no purpose; it was better if they ceased existing, much like himself.

Clouds, white with the smallest twinge of blue, slid over the sun, casting shadows over the land. Fai blinked his eyes, watching his shadow bleed in with the rest. Another bat of his eye and had disappeared all together, lost amongst its kind. He wanted very much to join it. Disappearing seemed like a bliss compared to the confusion and hurt of existing.

The clouds only thickened the sky further as the morning faded away to noon. Soon, the vast sea-green of it became cloaked in heavy thunderheads. It made a small smile grace Fai's lips in a mask of mock-interest. The sky matched his mind, all dark and dangerous, but he was tired of irony and its definition. He sure as hell wasn't going to give the Gods of this land (or any, for that matter) the satisfactory of gaining his surprise.

With a graceful movement, he was on his feet, standing his full height on the hut's porch. A moment more was given to studying the clouds -- the storm will keep us indoors for the better part of today, and perhaps tomorrow…was his thought -- before turning on his heel, turning his back to it. A gesture he knew well.

His steps were swift, quiet, ghost of footsteps against the wood. If the memory he gained from the morning were any greater, he would have really become a phantom gliding into the building.

At least he had some hope. Regrettably. He knew nothing good would come from it. But as long as he was human, he would cling to the tiny spark at the center of the hole in his heart and wish for a way to heal.

That was the flaw of humans and their nature. The greatest tragedy could happen to them and they would continue to hope until the fire of the soul paled, turned to embers, and choked out. Hope was a terrible thing. Such a falsehood that turned the spirit into smoke.

Fai D. Flowright, a scholar taught to dismiss such humanity, fell under hope's spell faster than any he had cast himself. So were the ways of mortality -- sometimes magic knitted a web without the person's consent.

Love was very much the same way, he mused as he walked to his room. Sleep weighed down his eyes, brushing lead against the pallor of his skin. He would have bags under his eyes. He found he didn't care.

At some point, Kurogane had awoke and wondered out to the main hall of the hut. Fai was inclined to believe that he sensed the tension in the air and came to see what made it so sour. That false smile grew in the tiniest bit when Fai saw him, leaning against the wall as if it was normality. How he envied him so much in that moment. It would be a dream to stand up straight without the pain of his situation crashing down on his shoulders.

"Good morning!" That cheerful façade hardened his smile, set it in stone. "Have you been up long?"

Kurogane's face twitched in a fleeting grimace, annoyed. "Not long. Up with the sun."

Fai nodded, continuing on his way. "I don't mean to be rude, but I haven't been to sleep yet. I'm going to lie down until the storm rolls out."

Two steps later, he felt the sudden pain of a hand squeezing his arm. He stopped walking and focused his mind on the bruise forming just below his skin. A delicate rose of pain blooming with its dark petals spreading beneath his sleeve.

An unintentional gift -- Kurogane was stronger than he gave himself credit for.

"You're acting different this morning," he said, voice soft but sharp. Fai imagined the hidden blades in that tone reaching out and stabbing him, turning the petals red. "Why?"

Fai's tone was equally sharp -- a razor made it able for speech instead of his tongue. "Different? The only thing different is the world we're in, Kuro-tan. Now, please release me."

Incoherent mutterings played a symphony, assaulting his ears. His arm was released, as asked, but the mage stood there until he heard the last of Kurogane's angry steps echoing from behind his back before he rushed into his room. The door slid behind him with an inaudible noise, but Fai could still hear it. Silence always seemed to have a sound to his ears.

There was a mirror in his room, along with a thin mattress and a wardrobe. The later wasn't used (it was unnecessary since they left world so rapidly) and he thought the mirror wouldn't be used at all. Fai wasn't a vain person. In fact, he didn't like to see his reflection at all. He had a rather nasty habit of picking out the imperfections that he had. It did wonders to his self-esteem.

He stood there, near the mirror hanging on the wall, listening for Kurogane. The swordsman was either sitting down or too far away for Fai to hear him. Good. He could look at the newest imperfection of his body without the chance of an uninvited audience.

Shirt discarded in a manner of seconds, Fai turned and showed the bruise to the mirror. The reflection made a face -- Fai realized he was too.

It wasn't bad, just slight discoloring in five long ovals curving around his upper arm. Though, against the pallor of his skin, the bruises looked more like ink stains. Fai sighed; the reflection did so too.

Leaving his shirt off, he flopped down on the mattress. The movement made no sound; the mattress didn't creak in protest. He was light enough to do both with the illusion that he'd magicked himself there.

He didn't bother with the coverlet, nor did he bother rolling over to a more comfortable fold of his body. It should have bothered him (countless times before that day it had) but, if it did, he ignored it so well that he didn't even notice he was doing it.

Laying face down, cheek pressed on his arm instead of a pillow, Fai slowly allowed himself to drift to sleep. All the while, the weight of the world pressed into his shoulders and crumbled his spine.

Cowards, after all, were a species God never intended to walk.

Okay…almost another year's wait -- DAMNIT, I SUCK! I'm so sorry…you guys…hey. HEY!!

Phooey…Well, everyone's deserted me…

SORRY!! FOR TAKING SO LONG!! -makes a sorry face-

Anyway, to those who are still here…

Enjoy it.

-- Ele.