1st Revision: 20/08/2008
1. RoE is a sequel to White Devil. It may not appear to be so at the moment, but references will show itself in later chapters. It is also heavily referenced to Ode to Darkness despite the fact it's not quite a sequel to said fiction as it is set before OTD. Nonetheless, it may get confusing if that fic is not read first. The end results of this fic also did not quite turn out to be what happened in OTD, so I suppose a better word would be that RoE is based on the main theme of OTD. Either way, I would really prefer it if you've read OTD and WD before this.
2. I refuse to use "Alf" an "Zafila" for this fic. For any of my fics, for that matter. I will instead use "Arf" and 'Zafira." Case closed.
3. Rein aside, StrikerS characters does not exist here.
4. TSAB is corrupted here. There is not...really...any logical reason why, but there might be if I actually try hard enough. However, I've no interest in finding a reason as it takes too much effort, and also because the bureau plays only a small (despite it significant) role here.
5. Song below can be found in LJ. Other than that...sit back, and enjoy.
Resplendence of Ebony
- Yasunori Mitsuda, Xenosaga OST.
When she felt the threads of magic that connected the two of them being pulled, she knew something was wrong.
When the telepathic contact that she desperately held onto faded, she knew it was too late.
And when the bond was severed, she lashed out; first from the waves of agony that hit her when she felt it forcefully broken and shattered, then from the realization that sunk in a second later.
Soul bond: A connection of heart and mind. Something so precious and sacred it could kill its partner if the other was destroyed.
And she broke.
She didn't die, but something in her broke.
Long, wavy strands of magic flowed through her veins, her blood; like fresh water in a steady stream, before they pooled in her linker core.
It was unfamiliar and familiar.
A foreign sensation in her body, and yet not.
It was something she had never felt before - or had she? - but her whole body seemed to recognize the warmth flowing through her.
Burgundy eyes opened to see a grey ceiling, cracked and worn with age.
The blonde sat up, slowly; and grimaced when she felt the dull throb on her bruised hands and body.
Her throat felt parched and dry. How long was she asleep?
She glanced up.
The soft tapping of feet jerked to a stop.
Slate blue eyes; soft, concerned...brimming with tears.
The name came to her before she even realized who it was.
The brunette flung herself towards her without warning, and her hands moved to Nanoha's waist to steady them both before her back could hit the wall.
"You're okay..." Cracking voice. She felt Nanoha's grip on her tighten protectively, and she automatically moved to rub the other's back in a reassuring gesture.
"I...what's...wrong?" Confusion. "How did I..."
She stopped. Her motions froze.
As if those words were all the trigger she needed, she remembered.
Bile rose in her throat; nausea settled in her stomach.
She was suddenly dizzy, and dull pressure forced its way into her brain.
Arf. Arf. Arf.
And Nanoha was too near, too close.
The blonde shoved Nanoha away, and had only a moment of intense regret when the brunette hit the wall hard, a wince forming on that face, before she threw up water - acid water - on the cement floor. As if her stomach was empty of nourishments.
When was the last time she had eaten?
There was a sharp, sour taste in her mouth, and she choked and coughed. Her dry throat burned with pain. One hand clenched tightly on her loose black shirt, as if trying to calm the erratic heartbeat that pounded against her chest uncomfortably, and the other hand curled into a tight fist on the bed.
Oh, god. Arf...
Her familiar was dead.
Her partner was dead dead dead dead -
More bile rose up her throat.
But there wasn't anything else she could get out.
Her vision blurred, even as she hacked air out of her throat.
She felt cold. She felt numb.
And there was something so different; something missing.
The warmth - the lingering warmth that she once knew - was there, just there, but she couldn't reach it, couldn't grasp it.
It was gone.
She couldn't think.
"Fate - "
Black spots appeared in her vision.
She blacked out, and felt only the faint sensation of slender hands catching her before she could hit the floor.
"...Lash back...severed connection..."
She felt soft cotton, damp and refreshingly cold, dabbed on her face.
"There's something...don't know...Master Hayate is..."
"...Testarossa...duel...no longer any chance..."
"...Stay strong...for all of us..."
Fate jerked awake.
Her breathing was harsh, and the collar of her shirt felt damp; soaked with cold sweat.
There was a soothing hand on her back.
A glass of water was pressed to her lips gently.
"Drink." A quiet command.
She did. Little sips of cool, fresh water soothed her dry throat, and then her empty stomach was suddenly demanding more, grabbing that hand to tilt the cup further, gulping down the remaining water in just a short few seconds.
But her breathing was still heavy.
"Slowly," that soft voice said. A hand rubbed her back gently. "Deep breaths, Fate-chan. Deep breaths."
The blonde forced herself to calm down and follow those words.
Her mind was regaining clarity.
Sad, sad blue eyes...
There was a weak smile on the brunette's face.
"How're you feeling?" The girl in ponytail released her - and she was suddenly missing the faint warmth - and placed the cup on the side table.
"I'm..." Arf. Arf. Arf. "...fine."
Nanoha didn't call her bluff.
Instead, she said, "You have been sleeping for three days." A pause. "There were moments when you woke shortly, but you returned to sleep soon after."
The blonde didn't remember that. But she did remember the one time she threw up.
She saw a bandage wrapped on Nanoha's elbow, stretching halfway to her wrist.
Nanoha blinked, then glanced down, and hid her arm behind her back instantly. "I - it's nothing." There was a forced grin on that face. "I was...careless, that's all."
That was a lie.
A lie so blatant that even Fate would know.
"...Really?" Burgundy eyes searched sad blue. Don't lie to me.
The brunette turned away instead of answering.
She should have felt hurt, and perhaps she did, but all she felt was emptiness.
Maybe she wanted to get hurt.
Fate grasped the other so quickly Nanoha couldn't react, and the bed creaked with the sudden movement.
"Fate - " A surprised gasp.
She was above the brunette, one hand pinning a wrist to the bed, the other gripping that bandaged arm tightly.
"F-Fate-chan, that..." Nanoha winced. It must have hurt.
"Who?" The blonde asked once, and only once.
She knew. She remembered.
But she had to ask.
"It wasn't - "
Her hold tightened, and the other drew in a sharp breath, pain more apparent on that face now.
The bandage felt damp under her fingers.
"F-Fate! That - stop - that hurts..!"
"Then tell me who!" Harsh words.
And there was silence.
Cold burgundy pierced into furious blue.
How long it lasted, she had no idea.
"...Let go." Nanoha broke the silence; soft, quiet, unreadable words reverberating in the air. "...You're hurting me."
She did, hand moving to press on the bed. The sheet was smeared a faint red.
Once more, it was the brunette who spoke first.
"I can't get up like this, Fate-chan."
Instead of responding, the blonde said, "I remember."
"I remember," she repeated.
She remembered lashing out.
She remembered destruction.
She remembered fighting.
She remembered blood.
"...I did that to you, didn't I?"
The flash of emotion in Nanoha's blue eyes was all she needed for an answer.
Suddenly, the hand pressed to the bed did not feel so steady anymore.
Her mind whirled with memories. Scenes. Blood.
She was dizzy.
She felt faint.
She hurt her.
She scarred -
She jerked at the sudden shout.
"No," warm hands - when did she escape her grasp? - were on her face, holding her there; forcing her to look into furious, beautiful blue eyes. "It's not your fault. It's not. It's not!" Vehement words.
"I hurt you," her retort was ragged and hoarse and disbelieving, "I hurt you."
"It wasn't your fault - "
"What did Shamal say about the wound?" She wanted to know. She needed to know. It was her - her Bardiche Zamber - that slashed at Nanoha's arm...
The brunette bit her lip.
The ruthlessly logical part of Fate's mind was already calculating.
Three days since Arf died.
It had been three days, but that injury had not healed.
It was still bleeding.
Shamal's magic had not been totally effective.
"...How deep was the wound?" whispered Fate.
Curative magic can only go so far.
And if it couldn't heal properly...
The blonde grabbed the hand - the bandaged one - on her face.
"How deep was it?" she repeated, words louder now, but hoarse and shaking.
Nanoha didn't answer, and looked away.
Fate reached for that little knot which held the bandage in place.
Blue eyes that saw her movements turned horrified.
"No - " Nanoha tried to take her hand back and escape.
But she was faster, sitting up, pressing her to the bed as a knee pinned the other arm.
"Don't - Fate-chan, don't - " There was a grimace on the brunette's features when Fate's fingers glided along the bandage, and she tried to resist, but the blonde had her wrist in a vice-like grip.
Nanoha should have had enough strength to pull her hand away despite the tight hold, but she didn't. Couldn't.
Her featherlike touch on the bandage shouldn't have hurt that much if it was just some scratch, but the pain on that face said different things.
She unrolled the bandage, dropping the red-stained cloth onto the bed.
Then she stared.
It was at least five inches long, running along her hand.
Jagged, and burnt. Fried from Zamber's natural element: Electricity.
And the wound was still open, white flesh and dark red liquid mixing together horribly...disgustingly.
Her mind was blank.
What had she...done?
What had she...
Lindy. Chrono. Amy.
They were gone - her family, her remaining family.
In the hands of TSAB.
But she felt nothing.
Just numb, and strangely hollow.
"...Hayate-chan and Rein-chan had gone missing," Nanoha was saying; voice soft and quiet. "Signum-san, Shamal-san, Vita-chan and Zafira-san are looking for them now but..."
She didn't respond, continuing her work on that hand, wrapping a fresh bandage around that gaping wound.
A quick knot was tied, tightened with gentle pressure; but not enough to hurt the other.
"Answer me, Fate-chan."
The first-aid kid was shut and placed on the table.
Nanoha grabbed the other's hand before she could - run - move.
"Please." A bare whisper.
She was still.
There was a weight on her back, so familiar and heavy all the same.
Brown hair tickled the back of her neck.
She felt water soak through her thin shirt.
"Fate-chan..." Soft, cracking, watery voice.
But she couldn't.
She had failed.
She did the very thing she swore not to do.
She didn't deserve it.
But Nanoha needed her.
And that was all it took for her to respond.
She never did forgive herself for what she did then.
The blonde turned, one hand caressing that damp cheek, saw surprise flicker in blue eyes, and crushed their lips together.
It was far from her usual gentle gestures; hard and harsh, invasive and almost violent.
Hands went around her neck, tangling with blonde hair, and they fell back to the bed.
Fate hated herself for giving in.
Deft fingers unbuttoned Nanoha's shirt.
Even more when she knew what they were doing would hurt her - them.
That was probably the word to use.
It was far from innocent.
She was pouring - bleeding - in all she had, and she was devouring all the same.
Breath was stolen, words were cut off, and thoughts were taken.
She marveled at that clouded, hazy, flushed expression on Nanoha's face, knowing she was the only one who made her like this, and hated herself for it.
She wanted Nanoha to hate her.
She wanted Nanoha to loathe her.
She wanted Nanoha to scorn her.
But calm, subdued ocean blue were only accepting.
She couldn't agree with that.
So she didn't stop.
Didn't stop when pain begun to fill those gasps, didn't stop when tears pooled at the corner of those eyes.
She muffled the cries with her mouth - because she didn't want to hear them - tasted her with a degree of desperation and hunger she never had before; felt the slender frame beneath her tremble and shiver with her every touch, felt it jerk and shudder involuntarily as she changed the rhythm from slow to fast to furious.
But there were no complaints, no resisting, no requests for her to slow down.
She was just taking everything that was forced onto her.
nibbles, reddening skin, bite marks, small little bruises
Nanoha was stubborn in many ways.
She knew that.
And because she knew, she asked.
"Why?" Her soft tone was ragged and hurt and pained.
No matter what she did, how much she did...
Hot breaths mingled.
Blue eyes, clouded and calm and intense all the same, looked back.
"Why?" she repeated, voice a hoarse whisper.
Her finger moved on its own accord, grazing against the tears on that cheek gently, brushing away damp locks of brown hair that stuck to the skin.
Nanoha just gazed back, with those dark, beautiful electric blue eyes.
The same pair that always pulled her into another world, away from her realm of chilly darkness.
The same pair that always saved her.
And the same pair that always, always...
"Because you couldn't cry." Couldn't, not wouldn't. Couldn't.
...reminded her it was alright to be weak.
For a moment, she could only stare, unable to decipher those words.
Because she couldn't cry, Nanoha cried for her.
Because she was numb, Nanoha felt the pain in her place.
That meant Nanoha knew. She knew what Fate was trying to do.
Warm, gentle hands were on her face.
Trembling fingers. Sweat-soaked flushed skin and drowsiness that entered blue eyes. She had used - played - her till Nanoha was spent and sore; and still...
"Baka ne...Fate-chan." There was a soft, tired, kind smile on Nanoha's features.
She was. She was.
And she was crying now, even as the brunette tugged her down lightly, weakly, and she didn't resist, and Nanoha pressed their lips together.
...Nothing to say here, really. Update on subsequent chapters may take a bit of time. While I'm fairly certain I won't make changes to them anymore aside from odd lines here and there, I'm kind of hesitant until I've actually finished the epilogue - which is, as of yet, incomplete. Or at least till I get feedback from beta that the chapter(s) looks fine, odd sentences and stuff aside.
Hence I should say reviews are inspiring. Reviews are FOOD for the writer. So. -points you to the review button-
Till next time.