Chapter 3: Matters of Heart

AN: This story is now written under the pen-name of Moonlight Minstrel (myself and Bardiche)! Also, this and "Even I…" will be part of a series of stores, called "The Prophecy of Marda".

Elore and Barbara cautiously approached the assassin with swords drawn.

"Barbara, be careful," he said softly, touching her hand for a brief moment, "This is no simple assassin."

"I know…same to you," she replied, then said with a little smile, "Let's dance!"

He nodded and took her free hand in his own before tensing his body in a way that she recognized immediately. She raised her blade to chest level just as he spun in a circle once and let go. Barbara spun towards the assassin, and when she was in close enough range, she shifted her sword until it was at an angle, and aimed for the upper chest/lower neck. The enemy quickly moved to deflect the blow and tried to aim for her arms.

Little did the assassin realize that while the dancer had been closing in on him, Elore had moved behind him and had aimed for the shoulders. The quick strike connected, causing the enemy to whirl around and aim for the seemingly-harmless Minstrel. The blades locked together for only a couple of moments before Elore's slid loose for a riposte that barely missed.

His eyes widened a little and he called out to Barbara, "That blade is poisoned…!"

"Nice tip," she replied and shifted her stance quickly, aiming for the arms themselves this time. We're gonna have to disarm him, quick.

The assassin took a small half-step backwards, just enough to avoid the oncoming slash, and started to lunge at the dancer. She managed to throw herself to the left to avoid the lunge, but just barely. At the same moment, Elore quickly lashed out with a sweeping kick that was aimed for the enemy's ankle. The kick connected, causing the already off-balance enemy to fall to the ground, a short distance from the precipice.

Upon landing, the assassin's grasp on his weapon loosened, and the poisoned blade fell uselessly to the ground. Before the enemy could reach for it, Elore quickly kicked the blade's hilt, causing the weapon to move a small distance, and leaving the enemy grasping at thin air.

Barbara approached the assassin, her own blade still in hand. "All right, buster...time for some questions," she said, her tone low and angry. "Starting with this: who sent you?"

"Someone…higher than you think," he growled, "That's all you'll get…before you go on your trip." His body shifted slightly, and there was a gleam in his eye.

With that, the assassin reached for his blade once more, and the movement was so sudden that nothing could be done to stop it. However, it was obvious to Elore what would happen next.

"Barbara...!" the god of light called out in warning, just as the assassin thrust the blade in Barbara's direction. With that, the enemy then flipped backwards, the blade slashing in an arc.

The dancer flipped backwards as well, but upon landing, she collapsed to the ground. When Elore saw this, his eyes narrowed in anger and he charged at the assassin, his own blade glowing as he moved.

"Wh…just who are you?" the enemy hissed.

"The wrong being to involve," he replied coldly and swung his sword from low to high, in a half-circle. When he did, an arc of light shot towards the assassin, hitting him squarely in the chest and pushing him backwards even further. As the masked killer teetered on the edge of the cliff, he looked down and found himself bleeding profusely where the arc had connected. A second light blast hit him in the legs…and as he roared in pain, he fell off of the cliff, plunging towards the ocean…and Yucomb's judgement.

Elore quickly turned back, gasping slightly as he saw the dancer, crumpled in a heap on the ground. He quickly ran to her and kneeled beside the still form, quickly checking her for any sign of life.

"Barbara," he called, voice thickening with emotion as he shook her shoulder…and felt something wet and slick beneath his hand. As he lifted his hand to get a closer look, his eyes widened in horror.

A dark red liquid stained his palm. Barbara's blood.

If it were not for the sight of her blood causing a sharp swell of emotions, the god of light would have certainly been surprised to feel his heart beating in his throat. Elore felt his eyes burning when he heard what seemed like a rueful laugh…coming from the form close to him.

"Hey…what's with you…?" The silence that followed wasn't very comforting, and neither was what felt like drizzles of rain on her skin. "You'd think I was actually hit…"

At least a little bit of the remark surprised him enough to look at the dancer, instead of something just past her.

"Think that you…?" he asked in a low whisper, "The blade—"

"You've got to be kidding me!" she replied with a laugh, "I tripped on some rocks when I landed, that's all. Help me up, will you?"

With help, the dancer was able to sit up and check herself. Finding only a few cuts from the rocks, Barbara was about to stand when she was surprised by Elore holding her tightly against him, long fingers being careful of the cuts.

"Elore?" she asked.

There was a small but unmistakable tremor in his voice as he whispered, "Don't you ever scare me like that again…"

What…? I scared him?

"What's gotten into you?" she asked, "You've been acting differently all night." Something's sure changed him.

He didn't respond in any way other than to hold her tighter.

There was a low laugh before she said, "Sheesh, you're acting like you almost lost someone you're in love with…!"

At that, there was the slight hiss of a sharp breath, then felt him go a little rigid before he went silent. Like you almost lost someone you're…wait a second… she thought as something in her mind clicked into place.

Is this some kind of dream…or a misunderstanding? There was a pause and she felt him start to let go of her.

Only one way to find out... She took a deep breath, her nerves suddenly on edge. It's now or never...

Before he could draw back, Barbara looked into a certain pair of alluring, crystal-blue eyes…and had the distinct thought that, at the moment, she was looking into his very soul. She lightly brushed, with her fingers, a cheek that was wet with tears and then she kissed him softly - almost chastely - on the lips.

She felt a slight shiver and heard a soft gasp from him before he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her back in a surprising mixture of tenderness and passion.

"Barbara," he whispered as he kissed her, "I…I love you…very much, very dearly."

He felt her hold him closer to her as she replied with a soft chuckle, "I've been in love with you even before I knew who you really are, and I'm still just as much in love now."

He felt something deep inside of him shiver, then bloom at this as he kissed her very tenderly and ran a hand through her hair.

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Some distance from the cliff stood a tall woman, slender yet voluptuous, and her hair colour comparable to that of the Red Moon. When her gaze fell upon Elore and Barbara kissing, she smiled warmly.

As it should be, she thought.

From out of nowhere, a similarly tall, well-built, handsome man appeared beside her. The only thing that could possibly catch anyone's attention to him was his long, blonde hair.

"I highly dislike being called on for a sudden judgement."

"What was decided?" the woman asked.

"What do you think? He did try to murder Elore and that woman." The man growled a bit at this. "It doesn't matter who sent him. He…received a properly watery grave."

"Ah. You know what's going on then, do you?"

"More than I want to admit. You want to know my stance, I take it?"

"Yes."

"Before I tell you... why?"

"Why what?"

The man merely narrowed his eyes at the woman. "Why are you involved?"

The woman sighed and said, "Because I know true love when I see it. This is the first time that Elore has truly fallen in love…and will be the only time. He has done so much for everything in Mardias' existence. He, too, deserves happiness of his own."

"So it has nothing to do with Marda's Prophecy?"

"Precisely."

He nodded, then said, "I needed to know your intentions and motivations. Myself…until tonight, I was neutral in this matter, because of what I know. Now, after seeing…things…I will support Elore."

The woman nodded. "He would certainly appreciate it, Yucomb. The other gods…how do they…?"

"Death is staying neutral…the wisest thing for him. Shirach, well…she knows nothing. Eres and Cyril support Elore, but because of Marda's Prophecy. Mirsa is neutral. Nisa­­--"

"I have…already talked to Nisa. I know what she intends."

"Is she simply mad? Or is it jealousy?"

"Both, I think. She says she doesn't believe in Marda's Prophecy, but something tells me that either she really does…or she fancies herself as being the one."

Yucomb made a face at this. "Incredible. Just because she is the goddess of earth doesn't make her…that."

"No, it does not."

"Do you believe the dancer here is the one?"

"As I said, Yucomb, my reasons for supporting him is completely unrelated to the Prophecy. As to Barbara…yes. I do."

The blue-haired man nodded and added, "So do I."

Suddenly, both could hear what sounded like a little voice coming from behind them, not much unlike that of a young girl.

"Umm…excuse me, but what's going on? Some guys are looking for Barbara and Minstrel—"

They turned and saw none other than a Taralian with red hair.

"Leave them be, Aisha," the woman replied kindly.

"I can't, the mayor's one of those looking for—"

Yucomb cut into the conversation with, "Worry not about that." He looked at the older woman with curiosity.

She nodded and said, "We're not bad with music and dance ourselves…not on the level of those two, but we'll fill in for a while."

"Okay!" Aisha said and then took off back for the city.

His eyes widened a little bit at this. "Amut…"

"Yucomb," Amut replied, "We're here, in Northpoint, in these bodies. We may as well while we're here. Besides…for now, this is what I can do for Barbara and Elore."

The man thought for a moment and nodded. "They must not be interrupted tonight. I'll follow your lead and we'll support Elore with action. Let's get ready to make our…premier?"

The older woman laughed and replied, "Debut. Just…do be cautious of what you say to the mortals."

What have I gotten myself into? Yucomb thought with a slight mental shiver.

Elore…this is for you, Amut thought as she lead her fellow immortal back into the city.