The Magic of Meetings
fanfiction by omi
Disclaimer: Gundam Seed / Destiny owned by BANDAI
A piercing shriek disturbed the usual silence of the afternoon. The young lad slumped back waiting for the loud thud he supposed was only right to follow after that shrill scream of pure terror. But when it didn't come did he turn around, only to find a young lady—probably of the same age—floating inches from the ground in a rather awkward position. Ah, she remembered to float at the last minute, he mused, and went back to cleaning his brushes. His instincts told him, and judging from the height of the Maple tree behind him, the girl would be fine even without his help—but that would be going against his nature. He already asked the grass beneath to grow longer to break her fall, just in case. The gentle rustle to his right told him that same girl all ready crawled over and sat beside him.
"Thanks," she smiled. So those grasses gave him away, then! They were still grinning cheekily behind him. How he wish some red paint would accidentally splatter out back to ruin those majestic green grins. But he let it pass for the favor they just did.
The pair was seated along the banks of a huge man-made pond. It was the usual Japanese garden with bonsai trees and lanterns placed alternately along the banks. Some koi from the pond were dancing about chasing morning lights as a game—or at least they pretend to. The more forward ones huddle as close as they could to get a better look at the newcomer. Fish loves gossip—grass, too for that matter— especially gossip that concerns their midnight-haired friend.
"What were you doing up there?" he asked, even though he already had an idea why. A set of brushes in different sizes and tubes with different shades of reds, browns, oranges and yellows lined up messily across her waist. The same shades of paint all over her overcoat, legs and cheeks. She was a painter much like himself. But he wanted an excuse to talk to her. Well, for one it was a relief to be talking to someone other than gossip starved fishes—and grass— for a change. And well he thought, as he looked up at her again that he really liked her smile.
As if reading into his mind, she graced him another charming one. "Well, I paint old leaves; those about to dry up and leave the tree." He looked up to where she pointed and found the same tree she fell from earlier. Indeed, some leaves from the higher branches now boast of a bright orange or yellow coat. They were still very green yesterday, he remembered. "I tell by their scents. Old leaves smell like freshly brewed, bitter, black coffee with a dash of cinnamon and vanilla. While the new ones smell of rich, smooth, caramel pudding with a hint of peppermint." The girl has a sweet tooth, no doubt, to match her sweet smile. "How about you, what do you paint?"
He felt the blush creeping behind his ears as his eyes met the full force of her curious gaze. Something about their depth and intensity held him captive and for a second he forgot how to breathe. Forever never felt so short—well, he almost missed her question, if not for the impatient fish who broke his trance. They'd never witness any action if he just ogled.
"Well," he started, hopefully to make up for the long silence however long that may have been. "I paint ko—," he paused, thought, blinked, blushed, then sighed. He knew he was being silly and let out a chuckle of resignation.
Her eyebrows knit in confusion. "What's so funny?" Who knew how troublesome words were! If someone else asked him what he painted, he probably would have answered with pride and dignity! Painting patterns on fishes require great skill and dexterity—not to mention, a lot of patience. But to be undone by words, this word in particular, something he considered common and used in his everyday.
"Just something rather silly, really," he admitted. "Well, you see, I paint those fish." He pointed to the crowding line along the banks. A little sprout chose that moment to jump to attract attention. His fins were shiny white silver, absent still of the vibrant colors of his older brother. "Do you know what they're called?" She violently shook her golden head. "They're koi."
"Oh," She paused, thought, blinked, blushed, and laughed along with him. "Oh!" Ah, so she knew the word as well. That would spare him the embarrassment of an explanation— to the disappointment of the fishies. "Oh!" She repeated once again. He chuckled some more, amused at the way her face now matched his already reddened one. It was a little premature to be talking about love, but here they were blushing idiots.
He cleared his throat and continued. "Well, they—the fish tells me what colors or patterns they'd like and I'd try to paint them as close as possible—which is quite difficult, since they always either give me really vague descriptions or very complicated ones, simply to annoy me." He obviously rambled, but rather softly that it sounded more like mumbling instead.
"They really like you." She gently smiled. She saw right through his complaints to which he agreed, and returned her smile.
"Just as I do."
'Awws' suddenly filled the background. The fishes almost felt guilty for eavesdropping, almost.
"Well, if you don't mind my asking, if you are able to float, then why did you fall from the tree?" She instantly froze. Her reaction was that of a child caught doing something mischievous. How interesting this girl proved to be!
"Oh, that, you see I was— well..." he could see she was struggling between telling the truth, and telling a fabricated truth to conceal the silliness behind her actions. He gave her soft smile urging her to continue. It was a promise he wouldn't laugh—no matter how silly her reason might really be.
"Well, I was waiting for the flower to fall," she started tentatively, shyly looking at his direction making sure he was keeping his promise. To which he did. It was the same attentive-amused look he was wearing throughout her tale. So she confidently continued, "Flowers taste best just as they detach themselves from the stems holding them. That's why you need to be pretty quick to collect them. Here, you can hav—ahhh!!!" He was confused why she suddenly stopped. But, of course! The flower she was supposed to collect when she fell—well, she found it just as he did—now crushed on the ground from where she "floated" down.
"Oh fickle twigs! All that work wasted! I'll share you some next time." It was odd, but his heart leapt at the thought that she wanted to see him again. However, a next time wasn't quite a tomorrow, or a next month, or a next year. He never knew himself to be fussy over details—it was probably the smile, yes, he was already addicted to her smile. But that revelation was even more disconcerting.
"How about tomorrow," he was surprised at his own audacity. "Let's meet again tomorrow, well, if you're around the area and not very busy, I mean, I'm always here."
She looked up excitedly at him; her cheeks were still stained with all the blushing business from earlier. "It's a promise, tomorrow then!" With a final wave, the two painters resumed to their work, painting leaves and love—I mean fish.
The next day came, and the next and the next. Soon days turned to weeks, months, yet neither her shadow nor her scent ever filled the garden again. He was disappointed at first, though still hopeful that she's probably too busy to drop by. Work came first after all. It'd be easier to forget, she probably already did, seeing that after a good year had passed and still she didn't come with the passing of seasons. So he was very much surprised when he saw another painter painting old leaves brown.
From him, he learned that the girl passed away the year earlier, the day after they met. Apparently, she was collecting flowers on top of a tree by a cliff. Flowers she promised to share with him. A strong gust of wind threw her off-balance, knocking her head off a sturdy branch sending her unconscious down the cliff to her death.
Hundreds of years passed, and finally, the day when he was summoned once again before the Master Painter came. He fulfilled his assignment dutifully and wonderfully. Praises were sung for the masterpieces he created, but not one was heard. His sad eyes, hardened with resolute, were much eager for his turn to wish. And when the time came, he looked straight into the Master Painter's gentle eyes and prayed.
"My wish ... to the girl with hair light like the golden sun, eyes of burning embers ... the girl who paints leaves and collects falling flowers as treats ... the girl with the bright, charming smile..." This was the moment he'd been waiting for years. As soon as he heard what had happened, he was consumed with grief far greater than the resentment he previously felt. How shameful he was for his doubt with the if-onlys always looming at the back of his mind. If he had known that'd be the first and last time he'd see her, he wished their time then could have gone on forever. He thought of thousand of reasons, excuses to give just to keep her longer. He wondered how a short meeting with someone was able to leave such a deep mark to the core of his entire being. She wanted to give him flowers then. Yet he couldn't offer her anything in return, not even wishes for her safety. "I wish to give her my name." Their promise of another meeting, he still wanted it fulfilled. And this time he wanted something tangible such as a name to hold onto.
The Master Painter softly smiled and understood. Wordlessly, he picked up his brush the size of his waist and painted. Long and graceful strokes filled the room like a blank canvas slowly transforming into awe-inspiring art. This was his cue to start moving, so he did, all the while chanting unending gratitude with every step. He walked through the path of light in the direction the Master Painter painted. The blinding flash numbed his legs so he kneeled with hands clutched to the ground in anticipation for the pain that was to come. But there was no pain. Instead he found himself on a beach.
Blue sky, hot sun, fine sand and crashing waves, but he noticed none except for the piercing shriek that disturbed that beautiful day. The knife in his hand and the fear in her eyes told him he was about to kill her. But for an instant, just an instant, the memory sealed in the lining of his emerald irises recognized that shrill scream of pure terror. But that instant was enough. Inches away from her death, he stopped.
I'm Cagalli... and you are?
Basically, this is a story which explains why Athrun hesitated when Cagalli screamed during episode 24. I find that odd, more so his reason for doing so because, first of all, being surprised your opponent is female is hardly an excuse. There are plenty of female soldiers, Zaft including. And a scream, I believe is a person's final struggle for life, knowing death is just around the corner. Fact is, Athrun's a trained soldier, one of the best in their army. For him to actually allow a scream from an enemy means there was already hesitation brewing inside him. It's an innate feeling that something is amiss. And so this story was born. I wanted to create a scenario that would explain that unnatural hesitation in their fateful first encounter—or so a deluded fan girl likes to think. :)
So, as unnatural (or as weird) as it may sound, this story is actually not AU! :D
And to spare everyone from confusion, the two characters in the first part of the story are Athrun and Cagalli before they became Athrun and Cagalli. Ah, still confusing? Well, they're what you call painters. They're responsible for giving color to the world. Color is important in nature because it signifies the changes in the season, the difference in species, etc. (ex.: Just how red in animals signify danger) They have the same appearance as humans which is why they're often mistaken for one. If you happen to meet someone with brushes and tubes of paint who suddenly stuck a conversation without giving their names, most probably you've met a (bored) painter.
Painters are given their assignments based on their personalities. Athrun's was koi because of his patience and attention to detail and Cagalli because of her accuracy with spontaneity. Just how humans have the gift or task of naming things, painters have gifts, too. Though their gifts also vary from their job description, it's something we might find cool but they find ordinary. So while Cagalli can float, and Athrun can talk to fishes—and grass, living things even inanimate ones basically, (referring to their previous selves in the story) they were denied of names, thus they mainly use descriptions, striking ones, to refer each other.
Thank you for reading! This is one of the more ambitious projects I've started, and I sincerely hope you liked it. If anyone is still confused about anything, just drop me a line. (And if you really liked it or were disappointed, do drop me a line, too!) :D