A/N: The second part to Makkron Forest: Reflections is here. We all hope you will enjoy the second part of the Reflections installment. It will be long and we hope that it will not dissapoint. There will be a lot of content in the dialogue and we hope that it will bring an new insight to the relationship between Shizuru and Natsuki.
A big Thank you, once again, to all those that have read, reviewed, and added this story to alert or favourite. It really means a lot to know that people still support this story.
Then again, until the end:
There were fleeting moments, Natsuki would find. She would find herself watching the blue sky of Eden, finding that the clouds indeed looked like what Shizuru had described to her. It was the time she would find her head on this young girl's lap. Her shoulder length hair splayed out in all directions, and she would be able to feel warm fingers massaging her scalp. It would be under a blue sky.
A blue sky full of clouds…
A sky that Shizuru would say,
'It will rain today.'
Indeed, it would rain, an hour later or late in the twilight. It would be then when Natsuki would find herself watching the blue sky of Eden, lost in the echoes of Shizuru's words of how fluffy the clouds looked. How it would rain.
She would hear the rain.
She would hear the soft patter upon the grass.
In the distance, nothing but rain.
Coincidentally or not, Natsuki found herself, looking up in a sky. Yet, this time it wasn't a blue sky, like those seen in Eden. There were no clouds; there were no signs of rain. There was nothing but bleakness and darkness. However, the only thing that Natsuki could find oddly similar was that her hair, now long was splayed out in all directions, warm trembling fingers holding her head and all this overlooked by crimson eyes.
Those crimson eyes.
Those that belonged to the ones that would say it would rain.
Would it rain?
Natsuki found her voice dry and it sounded like breaking glass. Emerald eyes could barely figure her surroundings, but she was sure that she was within the warm embrace of Shizuru's element. It was tingling at her skin, clinging onto her like how Shizuru would hold her hand when the road was tiring. There was that certain balance, in and outside of her. Shizuru was there, holding her. Yet, why and where was she? The sky was bleak, added with a hue of blue; the blue of ice. The air was cold.
Natsuki closed her eyes briefly; holding her breath, only to release it when she found her insides burning. Her lungs were aching, her fingers sore and her legs covered with something heavy.
She was still alive.
Very much alive.
Her sense of touch and feel was coming back to her and Natsuki noted how her face stung; she must have been slammed into something to have her face stinging in such pain. She could feel that her lips were cracked, most likely split. The taste of copper was strong in her mouth; at least she had not bitten off her tongue.
Her emerald found crimson in a glance again and Natsuki dragged her left arm upward to find that her healing process was already underway. It was normal to find parts of her body being layered and encased in a smooth layer of dry ice. A biting feel that numbed every sensation that came first and then it would break into an oddly warm comfortable feeling. It was unusual, since it was ice that was around her, healing her, keeping her very much alive.
'Very much alive, Shizuru.'
She was after all a Kruger, someone that could live for an eternity, waiting for that due time when she is allowed to die and see a new world…
Natsuki looked into crimson and found the worry that was scrawled all over. It was etched clearly onto that smooth face. She wondered, ever since that day on the landing port, why had this particular young girl cared for her so much.
Wasn't she someone unwanted?
Yet up until now, Shizuru was still worrying over her.
A warm hand ran down from her hair to her cheek, bringing it along a tantalizing sensation that made Natsuki lean in in response. She kept her gaze fixed on Shizuru and she found herself bringing a cold hand to grip the one that grazed down her face. Shizuru made no further movement and Natsuki only found Shizuru leaning over to her. She leaned in until Natsuki could feel her bleeding lips meet those of Shizuru, it was just a brush and Natsuki found that it elicited a strange feeling from within her and she stilled to find a familiar call ring through her head.
'You desire her as much as I do.'
Natsuki jerked her head away and bit onto her torn lips; so clearly could she hear her beast call out to her. She shuddered weakly, and somehow those crimson eyes didn't take notice of it. She could hear nought but a small breath escaping Shizuru's lips and the best Natsuki could do then was to close her eyes and rest.
Rest when you are alive.
Alive to live longer to see another dying day.
Natsuki felt those warm hands caress her head and she sunk even deeper into a calm comatose state. She could hear Shizuru's steady breathing, the crackle of the dry ice against her skin and certainly she could smell the strong smell of charred flesh mixed with the freshness of the ocean. Everything in her mind was bleak as it was and Natsuki found herself sitting face to face with her furry beast, in a void covered in darkness.
She was in her own world, her mind, her subconscious.
However, so clearly and vividly could she pick up what was around her in her conscious state. Shizuru's breathing was against her face, warm and soothing. Something so certain she could grasp tightly on. Something that she desired too.
'Do not fool yourself, Natsuki.'
Her emerald eyes glanced up to meet equal verdant ones,
'Wasn't I always the fool?'
Those shards of ice that covered Duran crackled like the sounds from the dry ice in reality and Natsuki moved to cover her arm. Duran was motionless as ever, calmly sitting on his hind legs, his snout held high and his chest pushed forward with power. He was the epitome of Natsuki's desire, the calm and collected person she was years ago. Now she was just another splitting image of her dying race, forcing herself to hide away from learning more. Hiding behind knowledge from the olden age.
'Yes, the biggest fool I have been mastered by.'
'I don't need your pity. You have done enough to mock me.'
Duran snorted, and Natsuki merely moved her eyes to her feet. Her boots covered in thick mud and small clumps of burning red ash that glowed menacingly. His words were low and rough, so much like Orion, hunter of the sky; the guiding stars that she was born under, the stars that gave her protection for so long. Duran spoke to her, in words Natsuki could not help but frown to,
'To mock you, I would have done something else.'
'What would you have done? You have already laughed at me when I vowed at the sanctum of Eden, pledging my eternity to Shizuru.'
Duran remained passive like always and Natsuki chided,
'You mark her as yours with your seal and force me into a contract with her; you do not call that mocking?'
'How can she possibly stabilise your powerful form when she is merely a Meister that has just graduated from the Order of Eden.'
'How can she possibly satisfy your needs when she's only thirteen?! I've robbed her of her innocence!'
The walls of this void seemingly shuddered at her voice but Duran only seemed to look more magnificent, eating away at her anger. Natsuki continued despite his silence, engulfing her bleak world with her voice so strong yet trembling weak,
'How can I possibly listen to you and her at the same time? How can I even live my own life with something that belongs to me gnawing at her bones?'
'I can only do this much!'
Natsuki raised her hand up to her face, crushed her fingers together into a fist and shook it dangerously at her beast that sat across her. Duran remained still, and it wasn't long before silence took its toll then did he speak again,
'You can do so much more, Natsuki.'
'What do you possibly want me to do!?'
It was then did Natsuki notice something she had not noticed after living for a century. Duran looked as if he was in pain and his wolfish face contorted in anguish. His smirk was not there like she always saw him in her world of darkness; instead what she saw clearly was disturbance and distress. He wasn't at ease either.
'I want you to make it rain, Natsuki.'
Natsuki felt her eyes widen and she felt something heavy get lifted of her chest. Duran's words seem to echo within her ears and she slowly realised that her beast was breaking apart. His fur of ice shards shattering into pieces, and what were left were his emerald eyes that mirrored hers. His voice low and husky like hers resonated in her bleak void, and Natsuki found herself looking up into crimson once again.
Shizuru looked as shocked as she could ever be in those five years of knowing her and Natsuki merely closed her eyes briefly to erase the fragments of Duran that lingered in her mind. However those haunting words of her beast rung like a death bell within her. How was she to make it rain when she could only make a rain of torrential ice that brought hell onto those that opposed her?
'We better get moving.'
She lifted her head up, which much pain, knowing that the juncture that linked her head to her spine had been forcibly twisted before. Natsuki could feel the ice around her neck and she only realised a second later that almost her whole body was covered in ice.
How could she have forgotten?
A hole had been made in her abdomen and what had been left was frozen with the ice had moulded into her body. Her left arm seemed chewed apart and what remained were the bones that were slowly being reformed with the flesh within the ice around. Her feet were somehow intact and joined to her unharmed legs, but her right hand looked as if it suffered the most even though it was still intact.
It was black within the casing of ice; her finger bones could be seen and her eyes seemingly caught onto the black reddish rot that flowed freely within the healing process. It wasn't to be in there; the black rot of the Burning. Chewing on her lacerated lips, Natsuki smashed her right hand to the ground, causing Shizuru that sat behind to gasp tightly.
Heaving a quick breath of pain, Natsuki watched the flesh of her right hand drop to the ground, breaking along with the ice shards that healed it. The air around her right arm tightened and Natsuki growled as she focussed her eyes on it, hoping that another layer of ice will quickly form on it before the rotting spell of the Burning made its way back to hinder the healing process.
However, noticing that her body was already at her limit at producing so many ice wraps on her body, Natsuki choked and whimpered as the pain from her wounded right hand flowed back into her senses. Heaving another breath to try to steady herself, she felt a warm hand envelope her built and she look up to find Shizuru bending over her broken form, holding her gently.
Her voice then sounded so much like her mother; gentle, kind, caring and above all, it provided her warmth and assurance,
The same tantalising feeling she felt before and Natsuki could do nothing but curl into a ball and be embraced in a whole by Shizuru's element, let alone Shizuru herself. Natsuki heard a soft cry within her walls and she opened her eyes to it, to find herself watching Shizuru tend to her wounds like how she always did back in Eden.
Under the blue sky with those fluffy clouds.
Those clouds that would rain.
Those crimson eyes that studied her until this day, those darks eyes that could seemingly sparkle like a ruby under the darkest sky and seemingly the life that made Natsuki feel that another century would be worth living. Then again, how? When everything around her was made bleak. When everything was made for her to follow blindly and do blindly.
It wasn't a world she found worth living in, even after a century.
What could she learn more when the world despised her?
Or was it the other way around?
Shizuru's enigmatic powers only made Natsuki relax further into Shizuru and emerald kept her gaze fixed on crimson that looked at her with worry and concern. In situations like this, it was always worry and concern she would look at Natsuki with, nothing more and nothing less, so much indifference that Natsuki wished that Shizuru could look at her with a true knowing look that she knew the young girl had.
Then again, how? When Natsuki had forced herself to live in her own bleak world; bleak and dark as it could be. Then what world would Duran be living in? A world much like hers…with so much anguish that he yearns for freedom. Her freedom.
'After all, it is your life.'
Natsuki closed her eyes upon hearing his deep voice and smiled softly when she felt Shizuru's hand caress her swollen cheek. Natsuki could feel ice grow onto Shizuru's skin and she whispered within her bleak world,
'I would make it rain.'
All Shizuru heard back was a soft grunt, a grunt that didn't hold as much power as she knew it could. Within the air of coldness trapped within the ice dome Natsuki had created before she passed out due to the severe blood loss, Shizuru breathed out airily as she smoothed her Companion's hair down for the umpteenth time,
'Are you feeling better?'
There was a moment of silence, the crackle of the dry ice upon her Companion's wounds the only source of noise, before Shizuru's ears picked up Natsuki's voice from her lap,
Those emeralds which she sought to look at was hidden well behind closed eye lids and Shizuru kept quiet in asking more about her Companion's health at the current state of time. The ice dome had been up for at least half a day, if Shizuru had kept track of time correctly. It was before sunrise had she and Natsuki entered into the Burning. Judging from the light that shone through the small crevasse of the walls of the Burning, Shizuru guessed as much that it was at least the time of dusk outside in Makkron Forest.
The ice dome was healthy, the clean clear ice allowed Shizuru to see whatever was outside. However, it was not certainly a place that Shizuru wanted to see. Ever since she entered into the Burning, she felt even more nauseous than when she entered the Makkron Forest. The balance within her body was already long tipped due the strong force of Duran residing within her. However, within the Burning, it felt as if her balance was being forcefully overthrown by the menacing forces that surged within this dark underworld.
Shizuru had walked through the large opening created by those large roots of the Makkron trees, along with her Companion.
The gateway to the Burning.
She could remember clearly descending onto soft slimy ground, her boots feeling as if it was being pulled off her feet. She was hoisted onto her Companion's back after about five minutes through the descent and she found that the soreness within her stomach which she had felt previously had disappeared almost instantly and her fingers felt cool and chilled.
It was as if ice had surrounded her entire being.
Her Companion kept as silent as a spirit along the descent into the Burning and it was only until they had finally touched ground zero of this nauseous place, then did Natsuki speak. Her voice was unsteady as Shizuru realised and Natsuki spoke as if she had been beaten along the way. Her emerald eyes didn't seem to sparkle and Shizuru could only figure that she kept her hold tight around her Companion's neck.
'To be safe is to be broken. To be at a loss is to be unabated.'
Shizuru remembered her vision get hazy at those words and she had only noticed a mere second later that she had been laid on the somewhat firm ground to rest. Her wooden staff that she had passed over to Natsuki was forcibly wedged into the ground before her and Shizuru found herself in her own defence barrier a notion later.
Her body had acted on its own accord.
The presence of her Companion died somewhat into something mellow and Shizuru watched in awe as Natsuki shed her cloak and drew a circle of icicles around her. In a blink later did she then find the place around her brighten in terrifying red and orange. She could see clearly then and there what was around her, and Shizuru was indeed horrified at what lay around her.
From where she sat upright on the ground, her eyes set sight onto pitch black objects that loomed over her, from within them glowing with vivacity was an orangey red substance. They looked like humans, but they seemingly did not look like humans either. There were more than the normal four limbs coming from what seemed to be their body; snaking out inhumanly like it wasn't to be in there. Its head look too big for its body to hold and they walked as if glued to the ground, slow and druggy.
A gasp was caught in her mouth and Shizuru noticed that they walked pass her as if she was not there, or was it that they did not pay any attention to her. Her eyes darted up when the barrier that protected her hissed and she hid her agape mouth behind her hands, in vain to try to not scream out. It looked as if a thousand of those creatures lived within this place, crawling unearthly on the cracked walls of this dark world below the growing Makkron Forest.
Her crimson eyes could make out the huge roots of the Makkron trees above that have long grown deep into the walls of the Burning, glowing red as she could have ever imagined. It looked as if it was feeding on something, but feeding off what? There was this great unbalance within the Burning, but Shizuru then could not place what exactly was causing this tip.
The Burning brightened up greatly from its bleakness to something of great power and vivacity. It burned like fire and Shizuru could see from where she sat on the ground that the Burning seemed to stretch for miles and miles. The ground below her flared up, but in an instant, it was covered with ice and its cooling nature. At that moment, her eyes darted over quickly to her Companion, to find Natsuki surrounded by those creatures of the Burning.
She had wanted to scream out, but somehow, she couldn't. Her voice had died before she could open her mouth. Shizuru had wanted to move, but it was as if a spell had been casted on her that prevented from doing anything. All she could do was to widen her eyes when a dark menacing voice that seemed to sound like a million voices resonate throughout the atmosphere.
It sounded dead.
It sounded like death itself.
It slurred and it hissed at the same time, a mix of what Shizuru thought were the groans of Great Turin Salamanders and the nagging of the old Bishops in Eden.
'It has been a long time since we last felt your presence on our grounds. What does the Great Kruger want this time, after so long?'
'I want nothing but a safe passage through your humble home.'
Everything around her seem to chuckle in amusement and Shizuru could only chew onto her lower lip as her Companion stood calmly within her ring of ice.
'Humble? Has the Great Kruger finally lowered her pride?'
Shizuru gripped tight onto her tunic, wishing that her stomach would churn at least a little, to give her at least some comfort that her Companion was going to be alright. However, nothing within her reverberated to her wish. All she received then was the flicker of fire amongst the black that surrounded Natsuki.
'I have long lowered my pride a century ago, when my family perished.'
'We are not surprised by your family's demise; we are only surprised how you are still alive and living healthy.'
'There is nothing to be surprised.'
Shizuru caught onto a flash of emerald within the dark flurry but she could only still any further actions when the eerie voices sounded again,
'We know there is more than one of you humans within our land. We can feel it, someone full of life and power.'
She could feel it; the itching sensation of being chewed at her skin was making her feel even more unbalanced.
'A little girl or boy perhaps, Great Kruger? It seems likely, since how eager you made your presence known to us. It shows how hasty you want things to be.'
Shizuru could only hold her figure still and watch on silently as her Companion made no move or say any protest against what was thrown against her. She trembled and held tighter onto her tunic as the creatures of the Burning moved slowly around Natsuki, groaning loudly,
'You never change.'
'I have changed.'
'For the better, we hope. It will be such a pity to see the last Great Kruger perish for something she willingly did not want to do.'
Everything sniggered and her Companion seemed to look more lifeless than she already was.
'Enough with the banter.'
Shizuru could only turn and find her eyes widening even more at the sight that came up behind her. A fine young man dressed with clothes that shone with elegance, seemingly made of silk that intertwined with cotton. There was this light feel just by looking upon it and Shizuru was shocked by his appearance than who he was.
He was shorter than Natsuki, Shizuru could tell. His head full of hair was cropped neatly, his hair the colour of mercury, his eyes the colour of burning ash and his skin colour pale like the waning moon. He was skinny to the bone, but at the angle where he stood by Shizuru to look at her through her defences, he looked strong and outstanding like that of Prince Steiner of Galeria.
The creatures of the Burning seem to dissipate around Natsuki as he glided over to her Companion within her ring of ice. Everything seem to quieten down and still when this mysterious man stood in front of Natsuki. The glowing vivacity seem to die down into a light golden colour and Shizuru heard the man's voice once again, and this time she could place a word to how his voice sounded like.
It was morose, but it had the air of contentment that Shizuru found it unduly strange. Then it struck her like no other; strong and overpowering; he was certainly the cause of all this unbalance. Yet how was such a fine looking man able to throw everything around disarray?
'What does the Great Kruger seek this time?'
'A safe passage through your land, nothing more, nothing less.'
He chuckled as if amused, exactly like what the creatures had done before. He raised his hand up high and walked around Natsuki, flickering his hand as if to conjure something from the atmosphere,
'To be safe is to be broken; what are you willing to offer to me, Great Kruger?'
Shizuru caught onto a flicker of life within her Companion's eyes but she heard nothing from Natsuki. The unearthly moans and groans picked up around Shizuru and it only stopped when the young man brought his hand down and shot his finger towards her direction,
'Is that young Meister your offer, Great Kruger? My, it will be an unpleasant waste of life.'
Shizuru stiffened and her eyes locked onto those ashen coloured eyes of the young man. How was it possible that he knew what status she was of? It was already frightening how he was able to look pass her defence barrier but to find out how powerful she was, it was terrifying. Shizuru had jerked her head to look at Natsuki and somehow she was afraid that she was indeed the offer. Then again, Natsuki wouldn't do that to her…would she?
'What are you in need of within your land, Prince Aamon?'
'Everything, Great Kruger.'
Shizuru felt stripped all of a sudden and she felt as if something was eating her from the outside, was this what Prince Aamon was putting up? A Prince? A Prince of the underworld of Makkron? How fitting it all seemed all of sudden, this unbalance that overrides within him.
'You do not need everything, for you already have everything. I am sure your people are in need of something more specific.'
'Ah? Can you read the future now Great Kruger?'
'No, but you can.'
The prince seemed stunned for a moment, but he recollected himself faster than Shizuru had imagined. It was in a blink of an eye, did his face suddenly change into of a raven.
'I was certainly expecting your arrival, but I wasn't expecting that of a Meister.'
White canine teeth from his beak flashed and Shizuru was brought to cover her mouth once again to stop her from saying something anything that might trouble her Companion. It was beyond words to describe what the Prince had changed into. Those ashen coloured eyes had screwed to become so tiny like a bead and it moved like a globe in its socket, scrutinising her as if she was a pest to his world. A sneer came out from his beak and he raised his hand once again into the air,
'My people need a new stomach to satisfy their hunger, and hands to ease their daily work load.'
'Is that all Prince Aamon?'
'Can you offer me that, Great Kruger? All From a young Meister?'
Her Companion was the one that chuckled this time round, her white teeth flashing like the Prince's canine teeth,
'Whoever said she was the one I was willingly to offer?'
Her Companion snapped her fingers and her ring of ice shattered into bits; bringing her defences to a null. Shizuru, then and there screamed at the top of her lungs, upon realisation that Natsuki was offering herself up for Shizuru for a safe passage through the Burning. What was this? What was this all about? Was this already planned that she would carry Natsuki's beast while Natsuki perished for Shizuru's good will? What was this stupid act her Companion was putting up?
This was not what Natsuki would do!
Natsuki would have thought about something more…more…
Natsuki would have…
Shizuru had brought her fist onto her own defence barrier, shaking the void that kept her safe while she watched in horror and grief as her Companion was swallowed by the creatures of the Burning. It was unsightly to see Natsuki's hands get ripped from its joints and a hole get punched through her body. Emerald eyes was still flickering with life and the agony that tore through her face was inerasable from Shizuru's mind.
'The Great Kruger is smart, young nameless Meister.'
Shizuru had spun around quickly, shaken to her wits end that the Prince of the Burning could do something nasty despite agreeing to the agreement made by her Companion. He was inside her defence barrier, no more than an arm's length away from her, what more can he do than kill her? Placing her footing firmly on the ice covered ground; Shizuru was more than ready to attack than defend. What was there to lose, when Natsuki was no more by her side?
'People tend to forget that the Great Kruger has eternity running through her veins.'
In an instant, his raven face changed back into that of a man, his sleek eyes piercing into hers,
'As her Meister, you better remember that until the day you die.'
Shizuru had found herself breathing rather rapidly at his presence and was rendered to shock once again, how could this Prince have known about Natsuki being her Companion?
'As agreed, a safe passage will be guaranteed for you, young nameless Meister and the Great Kruger.'
However, Shizuru found herself latching her hand onto a piece of torn flesh than the Prince himself. He had vanished within a mere second and replaced himself with her bloodied Companion. At that Shizuru cried,
Dropping herself to the floor, Shizuru encircled her arms around her Companion's shoulders to feel the sticky liquid of blood seep onto her tunic. Emerald eyes were open even though how dead she looked. She could feel the beating of her Companion's heart, weak but still there. It was like a signal fire, ready to be put out any second. Heaving an anguish breath, Shizuru had felt her surroundings suddenly turn cold before she noticed that an ice dome had been raised to cover the both of them completely. Sealing them within an area of protection and healing.
It was then did Shizuru find Natsuki in state of near death.
It was excruciating to watch her Companion's innards leak out from the hole that was punch in Natsuki's abdomen, blooding rushing out like a waterfall. How desperately Shizuru had wanted to reach her hand out, gather it together and put them back inside. However, she had stopped herself and buried her face close to Natsuki's, breathing out healing words she had learned when she was back in Eden.
All she could then do was to watch layers of ice cover her Companion's wound, encasing her like a cocoon. Shizuru could then only sit and hold in prayer, in hope that those emerald eyes would open and greet her like how she always opened to find the same verdant eyes looking deeply into hers.
After all it was etched into her mind then and there; eternity flowed through Natsuki Kruger.
'You are not injured, are you Shizuru?'
Shizuru opened her eyes and found emerald looking back up at her, as if ready to close back to hide behind her eyes lids.
'No. I'm fine.'
Her Companion simply grunted and readjusted her head on Shizuru's lap. The ice around her neck melting slowly into the air, its vapour returning to the surrounding, making the ice dome a lot warmer than it originally was. Silence engulfed the both of them and Natsuki found Shizuru's hands massaging her head like how she use to on Eden. Except there were no clouds for them to look at and there was no rain that would follow.
How Natsuki wanted to return to those calm days back in Eden.
When everything was at peace, or was it? As much as she had imagined?
She kept quiet, hoping that Shizuru would drop the question she was waiting to ask Natsuki. However, Natsuki heard nothing but Shizuru's smooth voice a second later,
'It won't rain today.'
Emerald that fixed onto crimson wavered and Natsuki could only clench her jaw together and look away after realising that Shizuru had brushed a stray strand of her hair away from her face. Within the ice dome, how could have Shizuru seen the clouds? The clouds so far away from their sight? The clouds blocked by the thick canopy of the Makkron Forest; blocked by the Burning led by Prince Aamon.
How could she see such things, when things were so bleak?
'Do you remember Natsuki? How I would describe the clouds to you? How it could somehow look like Master Rankin's face.'
She heard a soft breath of contentment, but she could not see the crimson eyes that had looked up to look at the top of the ice dome. Natsuki was sure she had sensed an emotion of foreboding from within Shizuru, but it seemingly was not there when those crimson eyes averted back down to her emerald. A finger traced her healing lips and Natsuki shook her head slightly from that warmth,
'You seemed so distant then.'
Natsuki froze and glanced back to Shizuru's gaze that looked away for the first time,
'Now, you seem even more distant.'
Shizuru pulled her hands from their caress on her Companion's head and lifted Natsuki closer to her frame,
'What is there to be sorry about?'
It rendered Natsuki speechless and she herself did not know why she had apologised.
Silence only engulfed them after Shizuru had pulled her Companion closer. The small groans and moans could be heard outside, but they both knew they had reached an agreement with Prince Aamon. To be safe is to be broken; to be at a loss is to be unabated. Those where the words of Prince Aamon Natsuki had longed learn when she travelled through the Burning with her family a long time ago. When her family was then feared by the Burning and her family worshipped by Prince Aamon. Now…
Now she was lowered to below their level, she was nothing but something they could use.
Then again, why was she called the Great Kruger when she was no longer part of the family that used to be feared by millions? Hadn't she torn herself away from her blood ties? Was it simply because she was last living Kruger that had eternity running through her veins. Was that seemingly why they still saw her as a Kruger and nothing less?
Prince Aamon was another reason.
Pushing her legs into a bend, she pushed herself further into Shizuru's hold, finding herself relaxing further into the soothing touch that warmed her skin. Shizuru may not know, but Natsuki was aware that Shizuru's element was working on helping her heal. Her self healing process was proceeding much faster than she expected, the rotting that was suppose to stall her healing process had been washed clean from her wounds and she could only pin point that the source of such extraction was done by Shizuru's element.
How it was done unconsciously by the young Meister, Natsuki could only guess. Guess upon that Shizuru loved her more than anything else that mattered, since how it was unconsciously working on her without Shizuru knowing. How far has Shizuru fallen for her when she had done nothing?
'Shizuru, you should sleep and rest.'
Crimson eyes only looked at her inquiringly and Natsuki pushed herself up a little more to rest within the arms of Shizuru,
'Daybreak, we shall start moving forward into the Burning. By tomorrow nightfall, we shall reach the exit to resurface onto the other side of the Makkron Forest.'
'But, Natsuki your wounds are…'
'Within your arms, I will be as good as before by daybreak.'
Shizuru felt her cheeks burn and she could only tighten her hold around her Companion and close her eyes. Her ears could pick up the soft now steady beating of Natsuki's heart and somehow she could hear another heartbeat that matched her Companion. It wasn't hers, that she knew, but who could it seemingly belong to? Before she could have the time to form the question within her head, fatigue pulled her eye lids shut and she fell into deep slumber, knowing that her Companion was there in her arms, safe and protected.
'To be safe is to be broken; to be at a loss is to be unabated.'
Shizuru whispered those words out into the searing atmosphere that burned around her. Her neck was glistening with perspiration and her tunic already drenched to the bottom. Her legs felt uncomfortable and it was tough to find a proper footing on the uneven ground of the burning. She had already long noticed that a layer of ice would form upon every step she took; Natsuki's beast was fulfilling its duty to protect her, yet it so seemed that Natsuki herself was protecting her.
Her stomach was calm and her fingers no where near uncomfortable; it was unusual since how troubled her Companion looked at the moment, walking beside her. Natsuki's face was tightened in pain or worry, Shizuru did not know. However, she could feel it within her element that something was troubling her Companion. The huge hand that held hers was loose and it felt as if Natsuki was ready to let go any moment.
Her Companion's steps were sluggish despite the fact that there were no ice wraps around her leg; the only prominent one was the large ice mould that was still healing the hole that had been made through Natsuki's abdomen. Her hands were well healed and her left arm healthily restored. Shizuru had brushed her lips across her Companion's healed lips at daybreak to ensure that her Companion was still with her and she could feel the energy that weakly flowed into her.
Natsuki looked more tired and exhausted than ever.
'Should we stop to take a break, Natsuki?'
The grip around her hand tightened and Shizuru looked up to the side to find Natsuki passing her a meek smile of comfort. Natsuki didn't say anything, but Shizuru could feel from her Companion that Shizuru need not to worry about her well being. The moans and groans from the creatures of the Burning echoed around them like a call from the dead and Shizuru only moved closer to her Companion.
Tightening her grip around her wooden staff, Shizuru kept her eyes forward, not daring to look at her surroundings, well aware that if she scanned what was around her, she would pass out. That she didn't want to happen, since how physically broken her Companion was at the moment. There was a soft tingling flow of energy that Shizuru felt at their interlinked hands; it was just that she didn't know whether the energy was from Natsuki or from her.
The unearthly sounds were the only noise that disrupted the subsequent periods of silence between Natsuki and Shizuru and upon nearing a structure that looked so much like a tall guard tower seen in the City of Galeria, Natsuki hoarse voice sounded above everything,
Immediately falling onto her knees, Natsuki pulled at her chest and fell flat onto her body with a loud thud. There was a loud sounding crack of ice and Shizuru winced at the sudden impact her Companion brought upon herself. Rushing over to pull her Companion face up, Shizuru wound her hands across her Companion's body and heaved it to her side. Pulling her cloak over Natsuki torso, Shizuru placed her hands once again onto her Companion's head and caressed the smooth dark hair that splayed out in all angles.
'It seems the Great Kruger has weakened dramatically over the years.'
Jerking her head around, Shizuru's crimson met in a hard clash against the ashen coloured ones of the Prince and she averted her eyes a fraction of a second later. The immense power that flowed through the round beads of the Prince was deathly and overwhelming, it brought about a huge unbalance to the atmosphere around them that Shizuru felt choked and suffocated.
'Pardon my intrusion, young nameless Meister.'
'What do you want?'
Shizuru stammered upon hearing his voice, how her voice trembled with uncertainty. A sly grin formed onto the young man's face and Shizuru pulled Natsuki closer to her. The mercury coloured hair of the Prince glimmered under the golden glow of the Burning and he lowered himself into a sit onto the ground,
'As agreed, I do not need anything more from the both of you.'
Natsuki's breath hitched all of a sudden and it brought Shizuru's crimson to look down instantly to find emerald looking around, as if trying to find something. Then suddenly, emerald stopped their fitful search and looked blankly upon crimson that looked on worriedly. Their gaze was held for a minute or two before emerald was shut behind closed eyes lids, pulling Natsuki into a comatose state.
Shizuru chewed onto her lower lips and brought her eyes back to clash hard against the ones of the Prince. Her breathing was laboured and she tightened her grip around Natsuki's shoulders,
'What have you done to her?'
'Oho? I have done nothing to the Great Kruger, young nameless Meister.'
Shizuru gritted her teeth and reached over to her wooden staff, however Natsuki's seemed to have moved by itself to rest upon her own, stopping her movements. Shocked, she weaved her fingers through the healed ones of Natsuki and held tightly, hoping silently that all this was just a dream. However the Prince's voice made sure it wasn't a dream as she had much wanted it to be,
'She is exhausted. Rest until nightfall and she will be much better.'
'We are to leave the Burning by nightfall.'
Shizuru was baffled by how she bit back at the young man and the expressionless face that the Prince gave only made her more afraid by what she had done. Surprisingly the Prince simply laughed heartily, making the surroundings moan and groan even louder, as if the walls of the Burning were laughing along with him.
'Hasty as always. I am not surprised.'
He waved his hand around and smiled pleasantly,
'With the Great Kruger in such a terrible condition, you cannot make it out of the Burning by nightfall.'
He stopped his waving and propped his chin up with his hand,
'I assure you, young nameless Meister, that you will not be harmed. I have agreed and I abide to my rules.'
'How can I trust you when you are the ruler of this land? You have no remorse!'
'I am not the ruler of the Burning. They simply follow my lead.'
Shizuru was rendered speechless and she only tightened her hold on Natsuki's hand. There was a flicker of energy that flowed in between them and Shizuru felt encouraged to stare further into those ashen coloured orbs that glowed in magnificence. The young man seemed to have caught onto her new found confidence and chuckled softly,
'I am Prince Aamon, Prince of the forgotten city Amun-Ra.'
She had heard it before during her studies in the Order of Eden, the forgotten city of Amun-Ra. However, what made her question was how was it possible for such an ancient city to have a prince that is alive and living 'till this very day when the city had long been forgotten and its population wiped out during the Bowrout Revolution. Shizuru pursed her lips and it certainly did not go unnoticed by the Prince.
'I am a living figure of a devil's incarnation, but I am still Prince Aamon of Amun-Ra.'
He stilled his speech and looked over to Natsuki that lay within the arms of the young Meister and he brought a hand down to cover his face briefly, pulling it away to reveal the same raven head that Shizuru had seen yesterday upon their first meeting. The same white canine teeth sparkled under the mellow golden gleam of the Burning and his eyes beady. The feathers on his neck ruffled up and smoothed down momentarily, allowing Shizuru a while to regain her composure.
It still alarmed her at what the Prince could do, seemingly an unnatural thing a human could do.
'I am much like the Great Kruger.'
'You are nothing like Natsuki!'
'I wonder where all of your anger precedes from when I have done nothing to you.'
Her hands held tighter onto her Companion and she shuddered, this time she dare not speak against the young man that sat before her.
'I am sure by now; you would have met the Great Kruger's alter ego, Duran.'
Before Shizuru could utter a word, the morose voice of the Prince cut her clear,
'She is much like me; I am a devil, but I am also Prince Aamon. She is the Great Kruger, but she is also Duran.'
His beak seem to form back into a human mouth, but his raven head remained, making his appearance look even more ghastly,
'Her alter ego is much alike mine, but she has yet to learn to accept it. That, young nameless Meister, I am sure you are well aware of.' He waved his hand again in the air, 'Am I not correct?'
Shizuru moved her body over Natsuki and brushed the loose lock of hair out of her closed eyes and breathed out softly, the air around them somehow turned cooler. She had no choice but to answer, but Shizuru was compelled to just nod her head instead of using her voice, afraid that it could spill her emotions out and show her true nature of how she felt towards her Companion. Yet what she was portraying; was it not already spelling out her love for her Companion?
'A young Meister like you has much to learn, but I am not the one to impart that knowledge to you.'
Crimson eyes focussed onto the ashen beady ones of the Prince and she felt lighter than floating in the air. His morose voice echoed around her, so much like a battle cry in the distance,
'Rest Meister, nightfall is on its way.'
'Prince Aamon is Prince Aamon. He was just revived as he was back then. Do not listen to his preaches of him being a devil incarnation.'
Natsuki managed to easily lift Shizuru up to the upper ring of rock that they had to climb that led the exit of the Burning. The hole within Natsuki's body had been covered up completely, but Shizuru knew silently that the ice was still working its healing process underneath the thin tunic of her Companion. Grabbing hold of their rucksack, Shizuru reached out to help her Companion up, wedging her wooden staff behind her to act as a supporting anchor.
As they got higher and higher from ground zero of the Burning, Shizuru had taken noticed that the air had became less and less suffocating, and certainly a lot less hotter than it was below. The ceilings of the Burning were still lined with the thick roots of the Makkron trees and it showed her that they were still well under the Makkron forest.
The air still had the same disturbing unbalance and Shizuru found it tough to keep up with such turmoil and disturbance within the atmosphere. However, she didn't want to complain, especially when her Companion had already done so much for her. Nightfall had come like how Prince Aamon had said, how Shizuru had guessed it was nightfall for Natsuki immediately woke up from her deep slumber and roused her awake so they could prepare a hasty dinner and leave right after.
The meal was simple, and Natsuki ate her portion of stale bread quietly. Her energy had returned and Shizuru was well aware of that, but Natsuki looked more and more troubled as the seconds passed. The air on ground zero seemed as if it sucked her life dry and kept a portion of it there for survival, but Shizuru wondered how it was even possible for the atmosphere to act as such.
Was this Prince Aamon's doing?
Or was this simply the nature of the Burning?
Shizuru had asked Natsuki after much excruciating silence on their journey upwards. Natsuki had then answered her in single words of affirmation or negation. It was not until Shizuru had asked about the true being of what Prince Aamon. It was then did Natsuki start to speak in sentences that Shizuru thought she might not hear for the rest of her Meister duties.
'I have known Prince Aamon since he was a boy, back when he lived in the Amun-Ra. '
'Was it a beautiful place, Natsuki?'
Natsuki turned her head around as she tied the rucksack around her body and raised an eyebrow at the simple carefree question Shizuru asked. She hesitated on answering, but in the end she did,
'Yes. It was.'
'I wished it had not perished during the Revolution.'
'It would have, eventually.'
Shizuru reached over to hold her Companion's huge hand and followed onto the huge strides Natsuki could now take. Her Companion didn't stop and Shizuru wondered if she had jogged a certain memory in Natsuki's mind.
'Amun-Ra was situated deep in the caves of the Avaris Mountains, a healthy city ruled by monarchs. A city embraced with natural stones worthy for harvesting. Then again, one dissolute generation brought upon their downfall. Prince Aamon was just lucky to be spared.
'Be spared? Did he not die?'
Her Companion chuckled lowly and Shizuru pulled herself closer to comfort,
'He did die, but that was much later when he tried to revive the city. Foolish he was to make an empty bargain with the creatures of the abyss.'
'So, he is an incarnation of a devil.'
Natsuki picked Shizuru up and lifted her up pass a steep portion of the rocky climb, her breathing was starting to get heavy and laboured,
'His soul was just sold to that of a devil, nothing more, and nothing less.'
Shizuru kept quiet and she felt a hand rest onto her head, to look up to find emerald looking into her own,
'His body is nothing but an empty shell that harbours two lost souls. One that yearns to be humble, while the other that strives for power.'
Her Companion simply smoothed her cheek with her gloved hand and motioned her to continue, all a while saying,
'To be safe is to be broken; to be at a loss is to be unabated.'
'Are you as divided as well, Natsuki?'
Natsuki kept walking, but with her mouth shut tightly, she found it hard to breathe since her air ways were long damaged and were still undergoing healing process. Shizuru question rung in her head and she knew she had been escaping that topic for a long time now and it was impossible to always run from it, especially when Shizuru was the one that was carrying her beast.
'Prince Aamon said to me that you are much like him.'
Natsuki forced a chuckle, but she kept her eyes ahead, afraid of turning to look into questioning crimson,
'Ah, what did he say?'
'Prince Aamon sparsely told me that he was a devil, but he was also Prince Aamon; and that you were the Great Kruger,' Natsuki heard no pauses or a waver of uncertainty in Shizuru's voice, 'but you were also Duran.'
At that, their steps were brought to a halt. Shizuru was roughly lifted up to a clearing above them and was no sooner joined by her Companion. However, Shizuru noticed that her Companion's eyes were turning into a shade darker than their normal gleaming emerald. Her element unable to work stably after being affected so much by the great disturbance in the Burning, could barely figure the cause of unbalance within Natsuki's body.
It was then Shizuru found her stomach start to churn and the edges of her fingers begin to burn. Squeezing her eyes shut at the sudden changed within herself, Shizuru wasn't aware that she had been forcefully pushed down onto the ground and her tunic pull aside. Her skin tensed open upon the contact of the air and she immediately felt an awkward swirl override her abdomen.
Pushing herself up weakly, she managed to find Natsuki bending over her, her brown cloak shielding them from the surrounding eyes of the Burning. The same mark that she had seen on her fingers spread from her Companion's eye and she noticed that those emerald eyes where trying to retain their original verdant colour. Through the sudden uncertain haze, Shizuru heard Natsuki's voice above her and her chest only tightened upon hearing her Companion's broken voice,
'It's time I told you about myself.'
Leaving her wooden staff next to her supine form, Shizuru gently lifted her hands up to cup Natsuki's face. Raising her head up and brushing her lips faintly with her Companion's, Shizuru was sure that there was slight tingle of excitement that ran through her body. Anything with Natsuki.
That she knew very well.
Even it if meant knowing her darkest side of all.
Her body was in waist high, dark freezing cold water. Every time she moved, trembled or shivered, Shizuru noticed that the intensity of the bitter coldness would only be brought down another level. She could only try in vain to still herself, but to only find herself shaking violently to how cold it was. Her surroundings were dark and it seemed to stretch on forever, for torturous silence was all she received when she called out her Companion's name into the distance.
Her hands were cold in the water and Shizuru found it disturbing that she had no control over her element, which she found useless in this bleak void of emptiness. She could see nothing in the distance and she could hardly tell whether the shadow she saw in front of her were her hands. The biting coldness had already long numbed her legs and Shizuru was beginning to feel faint and dizzy from everything.
She tried once more, her voice weak,
Then did she hear a faint voice behind her,
'Why not Kruger?'
Shizuru tried to turn around, but to find her lower body rooted to the ground. The water only became a lot colder due to her movement and she shivered even more. She could feel something press against her back, the fabric of a tunic, so much alike that of her Companion. The mint scent of Natsuki was clear in the air and she could only guess that Natsuki was standing back to back, against her.
Yet why could she not move and face her Companion.
Or was it even her Companion thought.
The voice that sounded behind her became more rough and edgy that it didn't sound like her Companion one bit.
'Why not Duran? Why not Kruger? Why always Natsuki?'
Shizuru froze at that question again, knowing that making any more unnecessary movements will only make her suffer more in this cold bleak endless void. Where did this water come from? That was something she could always wonder later. Now, she wondered, why always Natsuki? Why Natsuki?
'There is no because, Shizuru.'
Her crimson eyes could only widen at the sight that formed in front of her. Within the darkness, she did not know whether her eyes were playing tricks on her, but she could definitely see two identical figures of Natsuki standing at least an arm's length away from her. Yet, both of them weren't as identical as she thought they were. The more she looked at them, the more different they became to be. The Natsuki that stood on her right was shorter, thinner and leaner; her built more toned than the one on the left. The other Natsuki that stood more rigidly on the left of her was tall, shoulders square and chest more developed, yet those emerald eyes darker than those she normally saw.
Then again, who was behind her?
A presence that felt so much like her Companion, but yet seemingly not.
Her voice betrayed her original intention, and Shizuru found that it sounded so much more like an uncertain question than a calling she had wanted to make.
'Are we not all Natsuki?'
They all sounded, at the same time, that it echoed around her like the bells in the Order of the Eden. It was just that now, the toll sounded so much more dead than alive.
'You, all, cannot be Natsuki! There is only one Natsuki in Kosarieé.'
'What do you know, Shizuru?'
The figure that stood to her left smirked as if already standing in the light of triumph. The one on the right merely looked at her with bright emerald eyes. The unknown figure behind her simply stood motionless and spoke as if it was its turn; the water around her only becoming colder,
'What do you know about Natsuki, Shizuru?'
'You do not know anything about her.'
'She is a Kruger! An immortal of Kosarieé.'
'Ah. She knows how to bite back. Doesn't she, Duran?'
The one behind sounded out again in jest and the figure of Natsuki on the left, supposedly called Duran laughed. Yet, how it sounded more like a howl than a laugh,
'She nibbles. It is hardly called a bite.'
Laughter sounded around her, and Shizuru realised that she was more awake than ever and that her breathing was heavy and tired. How could she be both alert and lethargic at the same time? Was this place full of irony that it took effect on even the smallest things?
'That's the only thing you know about her. There is nothing more, even from the five years you have shared with her.'
Duran lifted a hand in a tease and the one behind her chuckled hoarsely. Nevertheless, the one on the right simply looked at her quietly, and silently.
'How can you call her Natsuki when you know nothing about her? How can you when you have hardly scratched on her exterior.'
'What do you know?'
Shizuru breathed back and the laughter that joked around stopped abruptly.
'Are we not all Natsuki?'
Her crimson eyes narrowed onto the one on the right and Shizuru gritted her teeth,
'Do not play games with me.'
'We are all Natsuki.' Her mouth relaxed the instant she heard a clear voice from the right, and Shizuru averted her gaze to find the figure on the right speaking,
'We are just the sides of Natsuki you do not see.'
'You are too easy on her.', the one behind chuckled once more and Duran grinned in amusement. Shizuru felt stunned for a moment and then something bit her that brought her back to who she was facing. Before her eyes once again, the image of Natsuki called Duran easily vaporised into a thick mist and cackled and crunched into a giant beast. A cross between a snow wolf and an Ankor guard bear. Its fur made of ice and its eyes gleaming in the most vibrant shade of green.
The image on her left dropped weightless into the dark water around her and materialised up into a girl that look no older than her. Her dark hair short to her shoulder and her face marred with scars, yet what mesmerised Shizuru were the same green eyes she shared with the beast.
The figure behind her didn't move, and it kept still like it had been throughout their light and taunting conversation.
'I am Duran.'
'I am Natsuki.'
'I am Kruger.'
'How can all of you be Natsuki!?'
Shizuru choked and gripped her chest, the water around her becoming even colder. How it did not turn to ice, she wondered briefly, but it escaped her mind when all around were figures that were all Natsuki. Staring hard upon Duran the sat on his hind legs on the still dark water beneath him, Shizuru chided,
'You live inside me! How can you possibly be Natsuki when you manifest in a place other than within her.'
'I am Natsuki.'
Whipping her head to the young girl that stood to her right, Shizuru covered her mouth and pulled her head between her shoulders. She cried effortlessly, tired of the whole illusion,
'It makes no sense!'
Silence engulfed them and Shizuru brought her head up when she found the figure behind her move away from her back. It spoke, hoarsely,
'The Natsuki you call for all the time, you are not calling all of us.'
'The Natsuki you love is only an empty shell.'
'The Natsuki you love is-'
'The Natsuki I love is here,' Shizuru spun hard, knowing she had broken a bone below; well hearing a crack when she forced her way around, 'In my heart.'
Her crimson eyes settled onto the well image of her Companion behind her, emerald eyes rebellious like they were in Eden. Her figure compromising both the slim and the buff, awkwardly making her look like any other being. Her dark long hair pooling on her shoulder and her lean face clean. The mint scent was no more in the air, but somehow Shizuru could imagine the fresh smell that her Companion could seemingly give out, no matter how dirty or bloodied she was.
'Then you're heart holds nothing.'
Shizuru faltered slightly, but she regained herself faster than she imagined. Maybe it was all for Natsuki,
'My heart holds my love for Natsuki. Even how different she is.'
Her Companion leaned forward, her nose nearly touching Shizuru's. Her breath smoked around their faces and Shizuru trembled slightly,
'Different!? She is very different, so very different!'
It spooked Shizuru, how eerie her Companion could suddenly change,
'I am sure you know Duran. The beast, the familiar, the alter-ego, the other side of Natsuki.'
Her Companion raised her hand to gesture to the young girl that stood quietly to the right,
'Allow me to introduce to you, Natsuki. Just Natsuki. The spirit, the soul, the true girl. The true little girl that wants everything.'
'What about you? Who are you?'
Shizuru watched, partly in terror and curiosity, at what her Companion before would say. Those emerald eyes averted down to her like that of a raven and pierced into her soul, making Shizuru feel terribly uncomfortable,
'I am Kruger. The empty shell that holds that damn fucking Rougeoyer.'
'Must you mock me?'
Her Companion snapped at her and Shizuru held her hands to her chest, somehow able to move herself backwards in the freezing waters. Her Companion sneered at her and raised her hands into the emptiness; Shizuru did not know whether it was even called air,
'You do not know who you have loved! So stop wasting your time, you do not know anything about Natsuki!'
Turning her head around, Shizuru found Duran trotting slowly to the young girl named Natsuki. Just Natsuki. No title, no family name. Just Natsuki. Shizuru found it intriguing to watch the snow beast circle the young girl twice, before settling around her like a shield of warmth and protection. A stream of vapour rose from his nostrils and his emerald eyes focussed onto the both of them.
'You've been beating around the bush; you will get nothing out from it.'
'Where have you been getting your confidence from?'
Shizuru looked on in silence; the young Natsuki spoke out, causing her Companion behind her to snort back. Her crimson eyes widened slightly when the young girl averted her gaze and look solely at her unmoving figure,
'As Kruger had said, I am Natsuki. We have never met before, and I am honoured to meet someone that is able to break into our void.'
'This is the Mascaron.'
She found herself being dragged to where the young girl stood in the water, her Companion following languidly like a shadow. Upon reaching the girl and Duran, Shizuru found the water around her much warmer and less biting on her skin. It felt unusually comfortable and soothing, so much like Natsuki in reality.
'Kruger does not lie, but I do. So whatever you hear from me, it is up to you to believe or not. After all, I am Natsuki, the soul of this person you love.'
'Everyone lies. It is natural for someone to lie.'
'Indeed. It is what makes up the balance, am I not correct?'
Shizuru could only nod her head in agreement.
'Then, shall we?'
'I did not seek an audience from you, Prince Aamon.'
Her ears could pick up his chuckle behind her and Natsuki gave one last glance at Shizuru that lay motionless below her. Pulling herself up to turn to face the young man that sat soundly on the rock ledge above her, Natsuki shed her cloak and placed it gently onto Shizuru's bare body.
'Is it wise to expose her in the Burning?'
'I will deal with it later.'
The Prince laughed heartily at her response and waved his hand like always,
'Yes, yes, I know you will. Yet, to allow her to dive into your soul in such an environment and time? Are you not taking a very huge risk?'
In comeback, Natsuki gritted her teeth together and snarled, much to her displeasure,
'Were you not the one that pushed her into asking me?'
'I procure love when I see it. It is a part of me I am sure you are well aware of.'
'I am sure you are well aware of how I tend to bite at whoever dares to take a part of me away.'
Prince Aamon raised his hands up in defeat, chuckling on his way,
'Oho! That is something I do not want happen here.'
'Leave Prince Aamon. I do not want to hear rubbish spill from your mouth.'
'Rubbish? How rude. I am sure I pushed her the correct way.'
'You make things sound so easy to do.'
'I am Prince Aamon, am I not? I do make things much easier and the same goes for you, Great Kruger.'
Natsuki snorted and looked away, only to find her eyes being brought to look back at the young man that smiled delightfully at her. His morose voice sounded once again and Natsuki could only smile grimly in response.
'She is a wise young nameless Meister, I am sure she knows what is right and what is wrong. I am sure you know it too.'
Picking up the light lit in his voice, Natsuki growled, knowing where he was headed to,
'You are still in debt to me.'
'Won't I always be?'
Changing his face into that of a raven, he flashed his white canine teeth from his beak,
'I am not running from what you have done to save a part of me; for that I am always in debt to you. However, in the Burning, you cannot outrun my rules.'
'You have agreed, but I know you want more.'
'Do not test me Great Kruger.' His beady ashen eyes darkened, 'I do not break my own rules for my own pleasure.'
Natsuki kept silently and kept her eyes burning into those that mirrored her anger. His voice sounded first and she was somehow relieved that he did,
'I do not wish to have the last Kruger be broken by her own undoing.'
'Have you been looking into the future?'
He looked coldly back at her,
'It was something I could not ignore.'
'You can learn to ignore it.'
'Then why can't you learn to accept yourself.'
Natsuki felt her chest cave in, and her vision hazed slightly. Indeed she had been running from accepting who she really was. Companion…Kruger or not. She had not accepted herself as Natsuki yet. When had she divided herself? So long ago it seemed.
'I can accept who I want to be, but can you, Great Kruger? Where have you learnt to be so stubborn? You are apparently not the Great Kruger I use to play with when I was a boy.'
'People change, Prince Aamon.'
'I hope you have changed for the better.'
'It is up to you to believe or not.'
Shizuru woke up with a start. Her hair was wet and her body draped with something thin yet heavy; Natsuki's cloak. She then noticed that her tunic was off her body and herself exposed to the tense air of the surroundings. Where was she? Yes…the Burning. The Burning led by Prince Aamon. Prince Aamon…
A grunt came from behind her and she whipped around, feeling an aching burn in her abdomen course through her body. Her Companion sat comfortably on a flat rock nearby, her knees bent and an arm propped up, her head resting on the palm of her upright hand. Those emerald eyes gazed at her and averted after a minute of silence.
Those emerald eyes that she saw so clearly in the Mascaron, the ones she saw now looked so different from the other three she had met in the empty void. To know everything about Natsuki was to meet every side of Natsuki. Her alter-ego, her shell, her soul and everything that made her whole. Was what she was seeing now, everything of Natsuki? Or what part of Natsuki had said, that she was just seeing something empty without life. Loving something that could not even grasp onto the life that hung in front of her?
Shizuru had heard their side, now it was her turn to decide, whether she believed it or not. That was her own secret to decide.
'We must get going.'
Meeting with the emerald once again, Shizuru nodded and reached over for her tunic that was folded neatly beside her. Upon dressing herself, she noted how Duran's seal mark snaked around her fingers instead of her abdomen and how another seal was replaced on the flat skin of her stomach. It was cool upon contact and she realised how unique this mark was.
It was dark like her Companion's hair and it had a light green ring around what seemed to be a text, written in language of the ancient. What caught her attention the most was the symbol that took its place within the ring. What seemed to be a bolt of lighting but seemingly not a bolt; what apparently looked like a Duran but not the beast itself and what looked like the young girl she had met and yet not.
Flushing her tunic down over her chest, Shizuru wrapped her armour around her upper body and tied her bodice. Dusting down her top, she breathed in and found that her lungs did not feel as heavy as before she passed out. The place still felt as unbalance as before, but she felt more energetic and alive, not tired and exhausted. Getting onto her feet, she readjusted her cloak and by then, Natsuki had slipped her wooden staff into her hands.
'It is time we get out of the Burning.'
Grasping hold of her Companion's huge hand, she noted how relatively big it was compared to the ones that her true soul had. How many more nicks and knacks it had compared to her Companion's. How different they both seem to be, yet how similar they were. Each wanting to have everything, yet, not wanting to accept that in reality, that cannot happen.
Shizuru didn't know whether when she called now, was she really calling all of Natsuki, or just the empty figure of Natsuki she had loved? Nevertheless now, she believed that she loved more than Natsuki herself, but her entire being of that spiritually and physically. Even though if she was just an empty shell, Shizuru would still love her.
Everything needed love, it was part of the balance.
Everything was part of the balance.
Tightening her fingers around those of Natsuki, Shizuru managed to get her Companion to turn her head towards her direction. Those emerald eyes glistening under the golden gleam of the Burning and Shizuru could only give out a warm smile and softly say,
'Even though you are divided, I will still love you.'
Natsuki merely grunted in response, much like Duran would do and Shizuru simply closed her eyes and be led along smoothly. Under the groans and moans from all around them, Shizuru placed her hand with her staff over her abdomen and gave out a soft breath of content,
'After all, you are my Companion.'
'Are you willingly to take us all, Meister Shizuru Viola?'
A/N: Back to the present, will Mai expect to find the Burning the same as Shizuru had seen five years ago?
*Info break: Prince Aamon is purely a fictional character from 'Kargo- the longest journey', he is a character inspired from one of the Princes of the Hell, sharing the same name Aamon. The Avaris Moutains, where the city of Amun-Ra is located, is at the border seperating the Land of Merros from the Land of Arri. The word Mascaron is a architectural term for an ornamental mask.
*Note from J-Crusader: The front part as one may noticed is written differently. I gave K', a writer from Production 797, the headstart to write the opening sequence to the second installment and she gave me something I could not ask for more. Why not we give up an applause for a well written piece that made this story whole.
Then again, until next time,