i. a Chessboard Knight

The lights turn down and he steps out. The show's about to begin.

It's always been this way, for as long as he's been wielding a sword outside of his home country. The sun sets, the monsters come out, and someone marches in to send them back to whence they came. The checkered floor beneath him extends outward into infinity, it seems; they're ever playing someone new, but never getting out of the bigger game, always still trapped on the board.

But hey, it's not like he's looking for an escape. He's chained, to her of all people, and his moves are limited by her motions and his endurance by her will, but they manage to work together, all four of them.

She's become more secretive, and he can't say he blames her. Things happen when the day fades away and the night slinks back that you don't want to remember, or do your best trying to live down. It's a dangerous time, and if you can't handle the darkness, you should stick to the light.

He won't say it to her, but he knows she's breaking, or close to it. People never seem to like it when the sun fades, when easy problems complicate and obfuscate themselves, when paths become less certain, and even the faces of people you know look foreign.

All they see, he thinks, is the sunset, the merging point where truth becomes falsehood and shadows lengthen. They like it for its mystery and the climactic thrill it gives them, watching the end of the day dissolve into darkness.

For him, though, it's always reminded him uncannily of himself. He's not the flawless black and white of chessboard tiles, wholly one thing or wholly the opposite. If anything, he started out life as a setting sun, a bright speck descending slowly through the heavens, now too far below the horizon for the rays of his youth to shine through. He's become the night, one more monster that moves from white square to black.

And now, he's one more terror on the board.

ii. Guardian of the Dawn

The first kiss of the sun caresses the tiles, warming them pleasantly underneath his feet, chasing the uncertainties away. He's never been one for mushy stuff, so maybe that's why he always feels the need to get back inside quickly, like he's intruding on something private, or stayed too long at a party, long enough to see th hosts come around and start cleaning up.

It's always been this way, ever since Tomoyo-hime accepted him into her guard. He'd flown through the ranks like a rising star, nestled comfortably at the apogee, and moving for no one. The tiles below him seem to stretch on forever, but that's just how much roof space Shirasaki has. Tons of hiding spaces pop out at him, as though he's scouting out surefire, winning locations in a hide-and-go-seek tournament.

But hey, it's not like it's a joke. He takes his job seriously, bound to it more than he might like to admit. Or rather, bound to her more closely than he'd care to say.

She doesn't seem him too often now, and he can't say that he expected her to. Things happen in the palace that require a princess' attention, when the night gives way to the morning, and regular life resumes, uninterrupted by the chaos of the evening. He can't stand the boredom of the day, always stuck doing the same old routine. He supposes that's why he sticks to the night.

He won't say it to her, but he knows he's breaking, slowly. People are always quick to praise him for his skills, but are even quicker to point out that his control over what he kills or doesn't is slipping. It feels weird, even, being dragged out by the daylight where all his trickery and sneakiness are exposed by the morning sun.

All he sees is the black of his armor stark and obvious against the tiles, glowing softly, ever making the distinction between illusion and reality clearer. He hates this time because it means he's got to stop; his arts can't conceal him now.

Once the night, he feels out of place and awkward in the new day, like the receding darkness should have taken him along but forgot. He's the only living thing left on the roof as the day breaks and birds make their first flights of the morning.

But now, hair ruffled and eyes tired, he's just one more exhausted person headed off to bed.


Note:

The first is set in Infinity, while the second is set in Nihon. Basically, the goal is to try to tell the story with as many of the same words as in the first part, but making it as different as possible. It's a little odd at first, but it's an interesting exercise to showcase Kurogane's two sides. Hope it's fun figuring it out!

--cy.