Well, people. Another story from me...skitty 2004, thanks for reviewing.
Purposely OOC. It's their Others I'm writing about, not the Nobodies themselves. Pssh.
Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts (c) Square Enix.
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It was the largest temple in Radiant Garden --- covering almost two thousand five hundred feet --- according to the well-folded and glossy map. The Temple of Crystal Grace, it announced in large, bold, and rather tacky font, with 12-pt. letters describing the rest of the temple's architecture in almost loving detail.
Ienzo sighed, and palmed his forehead in resignation as he walked through the imposing brass gates and into the arch of the Temple's threshold. He cringed with every resounding echo his black shoes made on the shiny marble floor. The pounding sound seemed to bounce off the walls and mock him.
The Temple was almost empty --- seeing that this was about three in the morning. Crystal Grace, Ienzo found out earlier from Braig (whom he never thought was a religious man), was the only temple in the city open at this ungodly hour.
He looked around, and ran a hand through the waterfall of lilac hair that cascaded over the right side of his face. The Temple had some very impressive architecture, that was for certain. Mahogany pews were arranged in straight columns and rows, and only the soft yellow Materia were activated, giving the place a feel of quiet.
He walked up to the front of the altar, and genuflected, before heading off into the first pew in sight and kneeling.
He clasped his hands in front of him and prayed for forgiveness in advance.
It was the first time he had prayed with such fervor. And at such an hour. Ienxo couldn't sleep that night; his comrade, Xehanort, had just found out how to tap into a heart the afternoon before. A honest-to-goodness human heart. At first, he was overjoyed, but when Ansem had ordered them to carry on, and when the silver-haired scientist decided to tap into the darkness of the heart, a guilt Ienzo had never experienced before seized his own heart.
He prayed to the Creator that forgiveness would come for his --- their tampering with a heart.
He couldn't stop now; the research they were conducting were invaluable to science and medicine.
Ienzo sighed, folded his arms, and stared up at the stained-glass figures flickering slightly in the warm light of the Materia.
"This is hopeless..." he muttered, shaking his head.
"Nothing is hopeless until you give up..."
"Huh?" he blinked, and turned to face the direction of the voice.
"...and you should never give up," the voice said softly. It came from the girl kneeling in the pew across his. Flaxen hair flowed smoothly over half-cloaked shoulders, and glimmering emerald eyes regarded him curiously.
Uh. There was a girl. Ienzo had not noticed her when he came in.
Uh...there was a very pretty girl, actually...
Fire danced on his cheeks, and he was suddenly very grateful that the Materia was not that bright.
"Are you okay?" she asked concernedly, getting up and standing as she turned to face him. The symbol of Radiant Garden, a silver crown, held her beige half-cloak together at her throat. Two small stylized wings graced the edges of the crown brooch. Similar wings decorated the white satin ribbon cinching her rather small (Ienzo blushed even more deeply) waist, and, if he wasn't mistaken, wings also decorated the sides of her lace-up boots.
He had never seen a novice --- novices had two wings, while priestesses had four --- as beautiful as her before.
"Y-Yeah," he stammered, still staring at her. "I'm fine."
"No, you're not; you're troubled," she said lightheartedly, siting down soundlessly on her pew and staring in front of her. "I am not jumping to conclusions...It's just...people don't usually go to the temple and pray at such an hour as this."
"Oh. So I could say the same to you, then."
She laughed, pale porcelain hands delicately covering her mouth. "I have an excuse," she turned once more to face him, and smiled. "I'm Arlene St. Ivalice, guard novice of the Temple of Crystal Grace," she bowed, tucking her hair behind her ear as she did so.
He narrowed his eyes as he observed her, racking his mind for the reason why her name sounded overly familiar. In the meantime, he introduced himself. "Ienzo Arcadia, nice to meet you."
She tilted her head (quite adorably, he might say --- okay stop it think happy thoughts) and scrutinized him.
It suddenly hit him. Who this Arlene was. A smile crept across his face at the realization.
So she was the Arlene everybody down at the compound was talking about. According to the rumors, almost everyone in Radiant Garden who was a bachelor and wanted to 'settle down' had tried to get the girl, but she stubbornly refused every suitor, saying that all her life she'd wanted to be a priestess. Nothing else.
Ah. Now he knew why so many people had gone after her. She was absolutely breathtaking.
"Hey," she waved a hand in front of him. Huh? He hadn't noticed her get out of her pew and cross the aisle and genuflect and walk up to him and ---
"Are you okay?" she repeated. "You seem a bit...flighty."
Ienzo had the funniest feeling in his stomach. Butterflies. Yes. That was it.
tic tic tic
6:00 AM twenty-one days later
"...so there's the Crystal Grace fountain. This is where we get the water for our Elixirs and everything," she explained, pausing and pointing to the stone bowl of clear water, with small ribbons of water gushing upwards.
"So you do make your own Elixirs?"
Arlene nodded. "We weave our own magic into the water. It's quite potent."
"I see..." Ienzo trailed off, and they continued to walk in silence.
She stole a glance at the twenty-something man traipsing beside her through the cobbled walkways of the Temple. Ienzo Alcaia. He was wearing some sort of crisp white longsleeved shirt, with the wrist buttons unfastened. A steel grey vest went over the polo, and he was wearing black slacks. Lilac hair cast a shadow over his right eye, and he kept trying to comb it back with a hand everytime it fell across his vision, the silver crown ring of Radiant Garden sparkling on his ring finger. It was a primary mannerism of his.
It was curious, how Ienzo kept going back at the same hour every day after they had first met. Arlene supposed Ienzo had some pretty heavy issues to talk about with the Creator. He didn't sound like a person who carried guilt. He was one of the more easygoing people who had come to pray at Crystal Grace. Rather smooth talker, too.
She turned her head to face him. He was staring upwards, into the orange-hued sky of dawn. "Hm?"
"If you don't mind me asking," he glanced at her. "And I'm not joking...How come a pretty girl like you decided to enter the convent? Lots of rich guys, I heard, want to marry you..."
She fell silent for a moment, and Ienzo hurriedly shook his head. "It's...I mean, it's okay if you don't want to ---"
"I swore never to marry," Arlene explained, staring down at the tufts of grass poking up from between the cracks of the bricks. "My father left me, my mother, and my younger brother. I...somehow, I have an aversion for men."
"You hate men?" he asked good-naturedly, pointing to himself.
"No, not hate," she furrowed her eyebrows. "I most certainly don't hate you. More like...I'm afraid the same thing will happen to me."
"How'd you know?"
"I'm just scared."
"You'll never know until you try," Ienzo laced his fingers behind his head and looked skywards once more.
Arlene narrowed her eyes. "Are you flirting with me?"
"Novice!" He clutched his chest, and laughed. "Aww. That hurts. And how exactly does someone like you know when a guy's flirting?"
She crossed her arms. "I've been fending off men ever since I stepped inside Crystal Grace Sanctuary."
"Fending off men? Wow. Like wild animals---"
"Would you please stop talking!" she huffed, and tried to block out the sound of Ienzo's laughter.
"Must've been ---"
They both froze, and Arlene blinked rapidly before returning the greeting. "Uhm," she bowed, and elbowed Ienzo to do the same. "Good morning, Kala."
Kala was the head priestess of Crystal Grace. Rather bubbly and temperamental, she always had her sunny yellow hair tied back in a high ponytail. Bright blue eyes scrutinized them from under thick choppy bangs, and two triangular strips of violet curved around her jawbone. A violet pearl inverse teardrop necklace graced her collarbone. She was wearing, of course, the same robe as Arlene. Only that six wings graced her clothes.
"Eh? Who's this?" she asked, jabbing her finger in a surprised Ienzo's chest.
"Ienzo Arcadia," she cut in hurriedly. "He's been quite a prayerful man."
Kala scowled. "Ahhuh. You're the Ienzo Arcadia! Arlene, how could you even let this man inside the grounds!"
Arlene raised an eyebrow and shot a look at the lilac-haired man. "What do you mean?"
The priestess snorted derisively. "This young man is one of those guys down at the lab. They're tampering with people's hearts. Goodness, Ienzo! How could you play with something that is the Creator's work? Hearts were not meant to be understood!"
Arlene put her hands on her hips. She had heard of the sacrilege those people were committing. It was something she could not understand. Why would these people toy with something that was not meant to be investigated? Hearts were a miracle granted by the Creator, and people should be grateful for them.
Ienzo sighed. "It's not like that..."
"That what's it like?" Kala pressed on, scowling even more.
"We're just finding out ways to protect this World, Priestess Kala. There's something big coming. Also, our works on hearts give a great deal of information to medicine and science. We can save more people!"
"Science and religion never really did work together," the blonde priestess quirked a smile. "But the way you put it...I might be convinced. Might. Okay, Arlene. Just don't let him out of your sight. And Ienzo. No funny business with Arlene."
Arlene shot Kala a glare.
"Toodles," she brushed past them and disappeared into the cool shadows of their sanctuary.
"Uh. Is that a priestess?" Ienzo asked slowly, staring at the place where Kala had gone. "She sure doesn't act like one."
"Head priestess," Arlene corrected. "She's the most powerful one here."
He turned back to face her, with the deer-caught-in-headlights look frozen on his face. He laughed sheepishly and scratched his head. "Yeah?"
She narrowed her eyes once more and shot him the same glare she gave Kala. "Were you planning on telling me anytime soon that you're one of the lab people?"
"...No." Ienzo winced, fiddling absentmindedly with the buttons of his sleeve.
She palmed her forehead and heaved a relieved sigh. "Thank the Creator."
He stared at her, bewildered. "What?"
Arlene let out an unwilling laugh at the lost expression on his face. "I'm glad you told the truth. I never walk around with someone whom I know is a liar."
He looked perfectly bewildered, and, strangely, quite handsome as he did so. Arlene vehemently shook her head to clear it of those rather impure thoughts. She pursed her lips and adjusted her crown brooch.
"Let's get on with the tour, then."
tic toc tic
9:00 AM eighty-three days later
Ienzo yawned widely as his shoes pounded the cobbled streets of Radiant Garden. He had found out that there was a shortcut to the labs if he went through the back road sandwiched between the Garden reservoir park and Crystal Grace Sanctuary. As an added bonus, he found out that the windows above said street belonged to the novices' quarters.
He crossed Twilight Road and entered the back alley, aptly named Crystal Street. And as usual, Arlene was out on the balcony at this time, watering the orchids and dahlia blooms crowded in clay pots. The plants were magnificent, and she had explained it was that way because the water they used was from the Crystal Grace fountain. Ienzo walked on, trying to look like he hadn't been doing this for the past two months. He stole glances from the corner of his eye, watching the blonde novice carefully spray water onto the plant's leaves, waiting for her to notice him walking by.
He passed under her balcony, and she made no move to indicate that she had noticed him.
Ienzo shrugged it off. They weren't really that ---
"Oh, sorry," a rather sarcastic voice exclaimed, her voice carrying on the wind. He looked up and a giggling Arlene looked back at him, holding up an aluminum bucket in one hand and a spray bottle in the other. "I didn't see you down there."
He ran a hand through his now sopping-wet hair, tucking the waterfall of bangs behind his ear and away from his face. "You're going to pay for that."
She wagged a disapproving finger. "No, I won't. No man lifts a hand to a novice, Ienzo."
And with one soft giggle (and another quarter of a bucketfull of water), Arlene walked back inside their quarters.
Ienzo took out his handkerchief from his pocket and started squeezing the water from his hair as he continued on, thankful that his black briefcase was water-resistant.
That girl was unbelievable. No wonder so many men were after her. She was sweet, Creator-fearing, beautiful, a level Six white mage, and absolutely good-hearted. But also...she was a novice, and therefore, off-limits. No matter. Ienzo was not about to give up his status as most wanted bachelor down at the Labs anytime soon.
"G'mornin, Sir Ienzo," the security guard, a rather gruff man named Dario, greeted with a raised eyebrow. "Took a shower, huh?"
He smiled painfully, waving him off as he made his way to their compound. All he offered was a sheepish grin to the people who stared at him as he walked down the corridors, and those who asked what had happened to him.
No matter what Arlene had said, he was going to get back at her. Psssh.
"Ienzo Arcadia," he spoke into the voice recognition lock on their workplace, and the bulletproof plastic doors slid open, hitting him with a blast of cold, airconditioned, and pine-scented air. Eh. Even was going through one of his obsessive-compulsive phases again.
"I thought you were supposed to take showers with your clothes off, Ienzo," a voice said loudly, and hearty laughter filled the cavernous room that was their quarters.
"Ah, shut it, Elaeus," he rolled his eyes and walked up to his workstation, setting down his briefcase on the gray plush computer chair with an unwilling smile. He then balled up the dripping-wet handkerchief and chucked it in the broad-shouldered scientist's direction, knocking his glasses off their perch on his head and onto the carpeted floor.
Elaeus picked it up while Braig, another one of his colleagues, swung around in his own chair. "You're pretty feisty today."
"I am not," he said unconcernedly, clicking his briefcase open.
"Yep, you are."
"Yes, you aaare," he said in an annoying sing-song voice. "That's the first time you've taken the bait, Ienzo. You're acting like a kid."
Ienzo hurled a pencil at him, one that Braig easily caught and tucked behind his ear. "I am not feisty."
"You don't have to be so defensive," Even cut in, stirring sugar into a mug of coffee set down in front of his workstation's monitor. He then meticulously cast Aero to float the scattered sugar granules into Braig's own mug.
"Hey, Even, told you I don't like white sugar!" the graying-haired scientist exclaimed loudly, poking Even in the back of the head with the pencil. The blonde ponytailed man shot Braig a smirk before emptying another sachet of white sugar into the mug in question.
"Why you --- "
"People, people, sheesh!" Ienzo yelled, crouching down under his desk and flipping the switch of his computer open. He then groped for the USB port on the back of his CPU, since Xehanort had borrowed his external port. The jerk. The silver-haired scientist knew Ienzo hated connecting his portable harddisk to the back, yet he still had the guts to 'borrow' it. Argh.
"Aww. Toldja, Ienzo's feisty today."
"Yeah, a first. Like he's hit puberty." That was Dilan, a man who always had earphones in his ears and gum in his mouth. And who also seemed to think Ienzo was only thirteen years old.
"Shut up, Dilan!" he said hotly, jamming the monitor's switch into the back of the CPU. "Just because I'm two years younger than you people..."
"The squirt's feisty," Dilan said knowingly. "And touchy, too. Y'know, it's either he's growing up (chorused by a 'awww, our wittle Ienzo's gwowing uuup' by Even and Elaeus), or --- "
That swiish was the door of their office sliding open. The bang was Ienzo's head hitting the underside of his desk, since he was kind of ... surprised the door had opened so abruptly. The crash was, he supposed, the speaker of his computer crashing against his flatscreen monitor, therefore knocking it over. "Cripes..." he muttered, before properly retrieving himself from a heap under the desk.
"Guys, I've got bad news...Ienzo, what the heck are you doing on the carpet?" Xehanort raised an eyebrow.
"Nothing," he said sarcastically, scowling.
"And why are you all wet?"
Snickers filled the room.
"You had something to tell us?" he said loudly, shooting a quietly laughing Braig and Dilan the deadliest glare he could.
The silver-haired scientist shrugged off his white lab coat and tossed it on his own computer chair, then poured himself a glass of water. "Ansem the Wise's not allowing the hearts deal to continue anymore."
"Huh?" Ienzo spluttered almost immediately. "B-But he's the one who started it in the first place! Why'd he do that?"
"I dunno," Xehanort shrugged, drinking from his glass.
"You heard the news, though," Elaeus mumbled, rolling up his sleeves as he sat down on his chair, leaning back and making the plastic groan. "Sir Ansem's got a guest. King from another world, says the receptionist down at the lounge."
Even sighed dejectedly, glancing at the paperwork on the hearts they had done so far. "So...?"
"...a king, huh?" Xehanort said slowly, amber eyes brightening. "Well, when I asked permission from Sir earlier, he did have a guest. Sort of large mouse, from what I've seen."
"Mouse?" Ienzo asked disbelievingly. "A mouse? Are you hallucinating or something?"
"It's King Mickey Mouse, then," Dilan answered absentmindedly, fiddling with his music player. "Disney Castle. I came across it in Sir Ansem's research once."
"What's a guy like him doing here?"
Xehanort and Dilan shrugged simultaneously.
"Aww. We were so close to a breakthrough..." Ienzo trailed off, politely refusing the stick of paopu-gum the earphoned scientist offered him. He climbed back up on his computer chair and started swiveling on it, hands laced behind his head. "Bad timing..."
Even whispered something in Xehanort's ear, and the silver-haired scientist suddenly eyed Ienzo closely.
Ienzo squirmed. He always squirmed when somebody stared at him like that. "What?" he asked suspiciously at the beginnings of the smirk forming on both their faces.
"Ah. Normally, you're not that vehement, Ienz," Even drawled, tightening his ponytail.
"I'm...not?" They actually noticed that?
"And you're not that bubbly."
"I am not bubbly, Dilan! Ugh. Girls are bubbly, not men!"
His five colleagues exchanged glances, and faced him with disturbingly similar smirks pasted on their faces.
"Ohh," Xehanort grinned. "Girl."
Ienzo could feel a blush creep up his cheeks,and was immensely thankful that half of his face was covered by his just-dried hair. He put on his best I-don't-know-what-the-hell-you're-talking-about expression and hoped for the best. "What?" he said indignantly.
Braig sighed. "Well, there's one less bachelor in our group..."
"I want to be best man," Elaeus chimed in.
Xehanort growled. "No, I am the best man."
"With that hair," the broad-shouldered man snickered. "You ought to be maid of honor."
"You're just jealous."
"So anyway, Ienzo," the silver-haired man ignored Elaeus, "Who's the lucky girl?"
"There is no girl, thank you very much," he crossed his arms, pouting thoroughly.
"Defensive," Braig said at once.
"Guilty," that was Dilan.
"In love," Even cut in.
"Am no--- Argh, I hate you people."
"We love you too, dear," they chorused in reply before bursting into laughter.
tic toc toc
12:00 NN one hundred eight days later
renmiri yosuogo -- oof, that was quite close..." Arlene bent down slightly, trying to steady the tottering pile of manuscripts in her arms. She stopped singing softly to herself as soon as she crossed the Temple Library's threshold.
She had library shift today, eleven in the morning to two in the afternoon. And the priestess-in-charge of the Library, Luccia, had just told her to go and clean out the Library Archives and transfer the scrolls of one particular book to the Main Library. Frankly, she'd rather not handle the yellowing, crumbling pieces of parchment, but she's a novice, and she has no other choice. Luccia said it built discipline.
"Hey Arlene," another novice, a soft-spoken girl named Penelo, greeted her. "Priestess Luccia told me to tell you to just drop the scrolls there on the table behind the Spellcasting aisle."
"Thanks, Pen," she said cheerfully, shifting the scrolls in her arms.
"Pen?" Wide-eyed expression of surprise. "Who are you and what have you done to my friend?"
"Eh, Penelo, Penelo," Arlene beamed sheepishly, before trotting over to said aisle, leaving a puzzled novice behind.
It was strange, how she had changed over the year that she had met that lilac-haired man. Lately she had been more outgoing and cheerful, giving people nicknames and smiling at random people she passed everywhere. Other novices had been noticing, and even her superiors were commending her on her change in personality.
He was bringing about a change in her, and she was enjoying it. Though she wasn't about to admit it to herself anytime soon.
"Arlene, you're daydreamin' again," a loud voice snapped her out of her thoughts, and she stopped short, sending the scrolls tumbling to the floor.
"Oh, shoot," she muttered, hurriedly flouncing down and gathering the rolls of parchment.
"Let me help," the same voice said, and Kala bent down to help her. Arlene blushed crimson with embarassment; Head Priestess Kala was something of a legend in the Sanctuary.
"Uhm, thanks," was all she could say as the blonde priestess picked up as much as she could carry and set it down gently on the gilded marble table Luccia had directed her to.
She heaved a sigh of relief as the last scroll was dropped onto the table. She then reached for the nearest scroll and unrolled it, checking to see what it was about and setting it in a pile of the same subjects. She felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle and she glanced up to see the deep blue scrutinizing gaze Kala was regarding her with.
"Arlene," the priestess hmph-ed and unrolled a scroll of her own, setting it down aside. "Healing scrolls."
She glanced at the manuscript she was holding. Weaving Cura Magic, it said in cramped curved script across the top. She quirked a smile before setting the scroll into the pile with Kala's. "Okay."
Bottle-cutting for Death Spirits. "Yes, Priestess Kala?"
"The Priestess ordinations are coming up."
Card Refining. "Mhmm."
"You have about one month to reconsider if you're going to retake your vows and make them perpetual."
Weaving wards against Forbidden Magic. "I'm aware of that."
"...I'm not going to lose you without a fight," Kala said offhandedly, placing two scrolls at once into the Weave pile.
Arlene blinked, the scroll labeled Internal Magic frozen in her hands. "Excuse me?"
"You're the most powerful novice Crystal Grace had seen in two hundred years; you're only a level below a Sorceress. The Sanctuary can't afford to lose you."
She was speechless. The Sanctuary thought her a powerful one? But all she had done was...oh. She had been the Sanctuary Elixir Weaver for the past few months, and as far as she had studied history, she was the first novice to have been so. She wordlessly set down the scroll and picked up another one, trying to appear unruffled.
Magnificat; Holy Magic Level VI. "You're not about to lose me."
"Oh, don't deny it," she waved a hand dismissively. "I've been in love, you know. I can see the look on your face whenever Ienzo comes to pray at the temple."
Weaving Blizzaga Magic. "Ienzo and I are no more than friends."
Kala tilted her head thoughtfully. "Your fellow novices have heard you talk in your sleep, Arlene. And so far, I've tallied fifty-two times they've you call out his name."
Tapping the Frozen Flame. "That doesn't prove anything."
"You're blushing. You're blushing everytime you see him. He's changed you, even," she clucked her tongue. "Can't you see it, Arlene? Your affection goes unreturned. Ienzo is well-known as a bachelor through and through."
Kyrie Eleison; Holy Magic Level IX. "We're friends. That's all, Priestess Kala."
"Wake up, Arlene! It's a one-sided love! I don't want to lose a friend in the Sanctuary and then just watch some guy throw her away like she's some toy!"
She blinked at the older flaxen-haired girl's outburst. Kala was breathing hard, a scroll held tightly in her hands, short of crushing the parchment. "...I'm your friend?"
"Sheesh, girl!" She threw her hands up in exasperation. "Why else would I be talking to you like this?"
"Uhh," she tapped her chin. "Maybe because you're Head Priestess and you don't want to lose me?"
She scratched her head. "Well, partly that, but...Arlene..."
Arlene bowed her head, holding the Kyrie Eleison scroll to her chest. "I...I swore I'd never fall in love with anyone. I don't want to become like my mother."
Kala reached over the table and put a comforting hand on her shoulder, smiling warmly as she did. "It's too late, Arlene."
She squeezed the parchment. "I'm sorry, Kala."
"Break it off while you still can." The Head Priestess gave her shoulder a brief squeeze before drawing herself up and sweeping out of the Library, leaving a silent Arlene behind.
An aisle behind, in the Magic Weaving section, a stunned Ienzo stood frozen. He had just been granted access to the Crystal Grace Library by Ansem the Wise, and he was expecting to come across some way to repair the hearts they had experimented on. He never expected to overhear such a conversation.
there ya go.
It's a twoshot.
Kala, if you squint, is Kid from Chrono Cross. XD
luffs, numinanamine. ♥