A blonde-haired man with a long braid dressed in a shapeless robe walked into a darkened room. The other man's eyes flickered to test his identity, and then drifted back to the window. There was no movement whatsoever for several minutes. In a cheerfully conniving tone, the newcomer said, "So, my mad prince, are you always going to stare out at your dead world?"
"Meishie, what is it that I should be aware of?" The redhead's voice fell as a calm monotone, and his expression didn't change at all. In fact, but for his eyes and mouth, not a single muscle had so much as twitched since Meishie's entrance.
A well-formed eyebrow rose fractionally. "So suspicious, Seeu?"
"The quality of your voice, posture, and past actions lead me to believe that you have planned or are planning an action of which I will not approve."
"We-e-ell," Meishie drew the word out thoughtfully, making a show of considering it, "be that as it may, sometimes people change. After all these years, could I not be just a little bit more of an honest person?"
"Highly unlikely." Silence. "Are you going to tell me what you are planning, then?"
Before Meishie could reply, a boy with jet-black hair - perhaps nineteen years of age - ran into the room, beaming with excitement. He tugged on Meishie's sleeve, saying, "I've looked around a bit, and guess what I found? A rosebush! It's not real, but it's still amazing! You have to see it!" He spotted Seeu at the window and calmed down some. "Wow, that guy's beautiful."
Meishie's expression changed from shock, to confusion, to glee. He burst out with uncontrollable laughter and managed between breaths, "Kagami, you shouldn't speak about people in the third person when they're right here." Kagami shrugged and walked until he was directly in Seeu's line of sight. "Wait, don't say it, he might really kill you!"
Kagami adopted a very formal air and said by way of introduction, "Hello, I'm Kagami, and I think you're beautiful."
Seeu stared at him for a very long time. Meishie looked mortified that he would soon have to watch the murder of a young adult in the beginning of his life. Kagami looked oblivious to the danger and the pointed glare.
Slowly, Seeu turned to Meishie. "Was this your plot?"
"Um…You could say that."
"…I don't see the point."
There was another lengthy silence, much to Kagami's dismay. Apparently getting an idea, he smiled brightly again. "Hey, what's your name?"
The pale man blinked. "Seeu."
"He is the Mad Prince Seeu of Asu," Meishie supplied helpfully.
Kagami's blue eyes widened very, very slightly in recognition, and only the aforementioned prince was close enough to notice. "Listen, Seeu - can I call you Seeu? I mean, not Prince or Your Highness or anything? - how about we be friends?"
Seeu seemed surprised, and he appeared to contemplate the proposition for a moment. "What would be required of me?"
Kagami tilted his head to the side, not fully understanding the question. He said, "We would just spend time together a lot and have interesting conversations or do something. You know, we would do...friend stuff."
Meishie smiled and elaborated. "Seeu, have you read in you research that the human consciousness sometimes needs contact with another, diverse consciousness?"
Seeu nodded solemnly, saying, "I have. It is a condition called 'loneliness'."
Meishie ignored Kagami's confused look and went on, "A friend is the cure to loneliness."
"Oh." He looked from Meishie's neutral smile to Kagami's somehow knowing blue eyes. "Why would you want to do something like that with someone like me?"
"Because you seem interesting, I guess. You'll make a good friend. Very trustworthy, and all those other requisite friend-like qualities. The only foreseeable problem at this point is," his eyes seemed to focus on something in distant memory, "you might just silently follow orders instead of doing what's right." He came back to himself with a shake of the head and took on a stern expression. "You have to promise that you'll always do what you think is right, Seeu, or we can't be friends."
Seeu seemed taken aback. "Alright, then."
"Then we're friends now!" Kagami cried, beaming again. "What are we going to do first? I haven't been to all of the worlds yet, you know. Only the fifth, third, and second. Is the ninth pretty this time of year? Can we go there next, Meishie?"
Meishie didn't respond, opting to closely examine Seeu's face for a moment. He sighed heavily and started to leave the room. "Come on, Kagami, we're not going to get any more out of him today. He's gone to sleep."
"Huh? But he's still standing up. His eyes are open and everything." Kagami reached out to at least push Seeu into a sitting position on the floor.
"I wouldn't," Meishie warned, just a fraction of a second too late.
A white, winding light flashed between Kagami's hand and Seeu's chest. Kagami pulled his hand up short, not out of fear, but wonder. He breathed, "Lunato Mercury…I know you." The light curled around his hand, up his arm, across his torso and down to his oddly sparkling left hand. It stayed like that, encircling his upper body like a snake. "I know you well…"
"Kagami? Is the Lunar reacting to the Organic Gold? We'd better leave before he wakes up. He can get pretty violent."
"Meishie…can I stay here? For a little while, at least?" Kagami was inexplicably out of breath, and he sat down heavily, the Lunato Mercury nearly petting him. Careful not to touch Seeu, he curled up in a cozy ball at the man's feet, snuggling against the warm glow of the living weapon.
"I guess so, but it's your funeral." With that, Meishie waved goodbye and left the room, fading out of sight before even the low lighting should have allowed.
Kagami was already fast asleep.
Seeu blinked and looked around. He had fallen asleep standing up, again, and his back hurt a bit. He had just resolved to take a step when his sense of the Lunato Mercury at his feet gave him pause. Looking down in slight annoyance - why in all hell was the Lunar underfoot? - he saw the blue-eyed boy from before, Kagami, wrapped in the blade of his living weapon. For a moment he thought that he was dead, but there was a definite rise-and-fall motion to the boy's chest.
"Wake up." He didn't say it very loud. It didn't wake the boy up. He paused, and added, "Now. I need to find Meishie and get him to take his little pet away." Nothing happened. "Lunar, wake him up."
Lunar's blade, so sharp that the actual edge was translucent, tightened against Kagami's skin, making very light impressions. However, it refused to injure him. Seeu could feel it's hesitation and stubbornness.
"Just find a way to wake him without drawing blood," he revised without inflection.
The Lunar's tip tapped against something metallic in Kagami's hand, piquing Seeu's interest. Kneeling down, he examined it, and found that the boy's entire left hand was golden. He leaned over further, earning him a prime position to see azure eyes open blearily.
"Heya, buddy of mine," Kagami smiled, "my friend so fine."
Utter silence. Seeu said, "What?"
"We're friends now. What else could I say? I woke up to find you staring at me."
Seeu was not one to be apologetic. "I was trying to see the cause of the anomalous metal covering your left hand. You appear to have full use of it, but no metal is that malleable."
"Oh, that? That's just Gold." Blank stare. "Organic Gold, my living weapon. It's not covering my left hand; it is my left hand. See?" He lifted his sleeve and showed where skin and gold knit together impossibly cleanly.
"I was aware of only four living weapons."
"The Zenith Crio, of the eighth world; the Nox Light, of the seventh; the Geopyrogate, of the ninth; and this little number here, Lunato Mercury," Kagami recited, running his finger over the flat side of the scythe as he spoke. His eyes slowly lost the distracted air of one reciting by rote. He pushed himself into standing up, and Lunar loosed from around his shoulders and retired back to where it leaned against the wall in the corner of the room. "Well, now there's another, alright? It only comes into being after the end of all things. That is, in about three hundred fifty years."
"And you, as well? Will you only come into being in that long a time?"
He thought for a moment, and then shook his head. "Hopefully not. This time, we're trying to make there not be an end of all things." He looked around expectantly, losing interest in the conversation. "What's for breakfast? What time is it, anyway?"
"Time enough to eat. Follow me." He walked out of the room, ignoring both his guest and his weapon. "Why did Meishie leave you here with me?"
Kagami shrugged and said, "I asked to be left. I made friends here, after all, both you and Lunar."
"And you seriously intend to be a friend to me?"
"Of course I do; I said so, didn't I?" They entered a small room, with two identical bowls of soup standing in bowls. "Hurray, food!"
"It has ample nutrition to tide you for approximately eight hours, depending on your activities." Seeu took about ten spoonfuls, and then merely sat around as Kagami finished his bowl and even started on Seeu's.
"So, what's on the agenda now?" Kagami asked eventually, leaning back in his chair.
Seeu appeared startled. "Nothing."
The boy whined, "What do you do for fun, then?"
"Oh." Kagami sat still…for five seconds. First, he drummed his fingers on the table. Bored, he leaned his chair back two legs, earning a disapproving glare from the prince across the room. Falling backward with a strangled yelp, he ran his golden hand through his hair in frustration and said, "Well, can we go somewhere else?"
"Was there anywhere you've ever been that was your favorite?"
"That you liked?"
"That was mildly enjoyable?"
"Nothing stands out."
"Um…" Kagami laced his fingers together and pressed them to his eyes, thinking how to phrase his question. "Was there anywhere on any world that could support human life and that held your interest for more than twenty-three seconds?"
Seeu thought about it. For ten minutes. Once, his head tilted to the side as if he was debating something, and Kagami grew hopeful, but he shook his head eventually. "Well," he said at length, "there are roughly a dozen such places."
There was an expectant silence, but Kagami was beginning to see that Seeu didn't intend to continue. "And…can we go to any of them now?"
"One you cannot, for it is destroyed; one will not have me; seven, it seems, are on worlds that I have not allied myself with; two are not accessible until a later or earlier time in the year."
Kagami counted them out on his fingers. After an intellectually busy moment, he said, "Well, what about the last one?"
"It is on the fourth world, a river. It should be past flooding season now, and warming up. It is…green." His shoulder raised fractionally in a sign of discomfort, and Kagami thought that the ability to recognize it was a small conquest.
"What sort of plants are there?" Kagami set his elbows on the table.
"You will see."
"We get to go there?"
"Wasn't that the purpose of my thinking of a place?"
Kagami smiled sheepishly and said, "I didn't think you'd actually bring me anywhere."
"Why wouldn't I?"
"Because you don't have to do so and probably can't be bothered with me." Kagami studied his host carefully, trying to understand his reasoning.
"I thought we were 'friends' now. Is that not what friends do? I do not recall the exact book in which I read this, but I'm sure I could find it again. If you wish, we do not have to be remain as such. It makes no difference to me."
Kagami looked at him for a long moment, the burst out laughing. "I'm really your first friend, aren't I? Seeu, being a friend isn't something you can learn by rote. It's an evolving thing, depending on who you trust and what happens between you. It can be as enduring as a diamond - or as buoyant. It all depends," he leaned his chair on two legs, then only one, displaying extraordinary improvement in the field of balance from mere minutes before. Pushing himself in a quick circle, he settled the chair back on all fours and smiled. "It all depends on how much you're willing to rely on a person."
Seeu didn't answer. Instead, he stood and walked out the door. Taking this as a sign that they were leaving, Kagami followed him, heads behind head, a mildly thoughtful tune whistling through pursed lips. He noticed that the Lunar was leaning unobtrusively against the prince's shoulder. He wasn't exactly sure how the living weapon had migrated to that point, seeing as the last time he had seen it was on the far-distant opposite side of the castle. His Gold flexed and clenched, and he looked at it above his head. How could the other masters of living weapons stand to have such an essential part of their beings more than even arm's length away?
Sunlight dazzled his eyes and he was forced to drop both his arm and his gaze. This was the central garden, covered in wide, white marble tiles with long rows of twin flower beds running the length of the rectangular plaza. There were smaller planters at both ends. Kagami wondered why the plants had been allowed to wither and die, reduced to nothing but long-blackened stalks in the dirt. Why would Seeu be bringing him to a 'green' place if the prince didn't even keep the plants in his own home growing?
Seeu stopped and turned to look at the blue-eyed boy. It was odd. Why did this boy seem so comfortable around him? Certainly no one else was. Even Meishie, who was the closest thing to a friend he had had, was more of a business partner. Every other master of a living weapon - which, admittedly, was the only type of person he had spoken to for a century - kept their distance. Kura, of militaristic Geo and master of Nox Light, fought with everyone constantly. Idou, of the devout Asuraitsu and master of Zenith Crio, seemed to have problems only with Kura, and a particularly nasty brawl had removed Kura of his left eye. Ragunahaan, of the ninth world, master of Geopyrogate, was…well, he was nobility personified. If Seeu were inclined to like anyone, it would be the soft spoken, agreeable, confident man that seemed to take control of any situation.
If he wasn't broken as he was, he would wish to be a leader such as Raguna…
"Seeu?" Kagami was looking at him with intense concentration. "Are you asleep again, or…?"
Seeu blinked. Oh, right, they were going to the fourth world. He took out the small Collasper that was Asu's signature, and programmed the coordinates into it. "Come here."
Kagami covered the distance in one jump, obviously excited to be going. "Let's go! I can't wait to see what kind of place you'd like." He rolled back on his heels, and looked at the hourglass-shaped Collasper. Seeu held it out and activated it.
A bright light surrounded them both and Kagami could no longer see the garden. Seeu didn't even twitch, but, as this was Kagami's first time traveling with a Collasper, he felt a little jumpy. But, he rationalized, there was no good reason for Seeu to put him in the path of any physical harm. They were friends now. He kept that thought securely in his head as a wave of nausea traveled from just behind his navel to a more concentrated point just under his tongue. Then, they were neither here nor there. There was pancake-shaped moment of utter uncertainty, before the universe decided which world they were supposed to be on and they were standing in knee-high, soft grass. There was the sound of a river nearby.
Kagami looked around eagerly. There was green everywhere…but it wasn't all just green, was it? There were dark ferns; bright, delicate leaves; almost-brown stems; bluish, gnarled roots. This place was green with personality. "So, Seeu," he smiled, turning back to his friend, "you like a place that's alive."
Seeu looked up from his scrutiny of a beetle that had landed on the flat side of Lunar, shrugged, and looked away.
"How very, very different from first impressions!" Kagami beamed, turning a circle in glee. "Let's go swimming!" He quickly started stripping.
Seeu watched with indifference. "I do not know how to do so."
Kagami was already diving in. "Neither do I! It'll be a learning experience!" A wide water lily didn't want to unstick from his back when he resurfaced, and he tried to reach around for it. A thin, golden whip dripped from the Organic Gold on his left arm, and, seemingly without the boy's encouragement, snaked around to cut the plant in half. "Thanks, Gold." He turned back to Seeu. "Come on. If I can stand up in this, it won't even be up to your chest."
Seeu rolled his eyes and waded in without a word. He stood in the exact center of the stream, neither moving with the current nor outright defying it. He just seemed to be detached. Kagami watched him curiously.
Eventually, they had to get out. Both had high tolerances for cold, but the wind convinced Kagami that they would die of hypothermia unless they laid out in the sun to dry off.
They sat in silence until Kagami bit the bullet and said, "So…um…When's your birthday, Seeu?"
For a moment it looked like the prince was asleep (with his eyes closed this time - score!), but he spoke in a perfectly lucid, even voice. "I was born more than one hundred fifty years ago. I don't remember."
Kagami flipped from lying on his back to his stomach eagerly and said quickly, "Oh, oh, can I make you up a new birthday? I want something to celebrate."
"Why?" Seeu's eyes were still closed, and he almost looked like one of the dolls from Eden that went to sleep when held horizontally. Yes, that was it. He looked like a doll.
Kagami's smile froze in place as he said merrily, "Because I'm feeling kind of down after having to say goodbye to my sister, never to see her again."
Now the blue eyes opened and focused on the boy. "Why did you do that?"
"It was a necessary evil, all part of the plan."
One who didn't know anything about Seeu - and had never even seen him - mighthave thoughtthat some unknown form of sympathy crossed the mad prince's face, but Kagami knew it didn't. He said calmly, "If this is you depressed, I don't believe myself able to handle a cheerful Kagami."
Wide blue eyes stared down at him, and a dawning expression of amazement gave rise to a yet another brilliant smile. "Wow! Seeu, I think you just make a funny! It's a miracle! Is the world ending?" He didn't let his smile falter as he immediately changed subjects. "I'm going to make your birthday be in a week, okay?" He pointed up at the sun, in its unending cycle through the seasons, with his Gold. "It's Christmas - um, a holiday where you put little lights on a tree and this frozen water falls everywhere - on Eden. Yeah, it suits you. Cold on the outside and warm and…um…glowy on the in."
Seeu wasn't really paying attention. He would be able to recite it back verbatim (minus the word 'glowy'), but he wasn't listening. He was watching the sunlight glinting off the surface of the Organic Gold. It shone with perfection. He had never been overly fond of sunshine. It played an essential role in photosynthesis. It warmed a planet's atmosphere, creating weather patterns and seasons. It even, to some degree, dictated the human and animal sleep cycle. But when it was reflected off of the multifaceted Gold…it had meaning. It wasn't clear what that meaning was, but it was there.
Maybe he could find it in himself to tolerate this 'friendship' ordeal.
"Why is everything tied back to Eden?" Seeu said in a teasing tone. (Or he would have, if he did that sort of thing. It had more of a flat quality to it, really.)
Kagami grinned and looked at his golden hand again. "Because it's so great. And it's so great because my darling sister lives there!"
"Am I ever going to meet this girl?"
Kagami flopped on his back with a weird, cat-like grin and said, "I should hope so! Otherwise, none of it's worth it. You hear me?" he yelled, startling a flock of red birds into flight a distance away, "If Seeu doesn't reap the benefits, none of this is worth it!"
And they both slowly drifted to sleep.