DISCLAIMER: Knights in the Nightmare, Dept. Heaven © Sting. Story belongs to me.

(Icarus improved – I glimpse, and thus I desire, what I can't have)

As if there needed to be any more proof that she was an incomplete being, Maria was born without the knowledge of flight.

It wasn't so simple a matter as not knowing how; she couldn't even imagine it. Marietta had known flight, of course, of course; if she examined Marietta's memories inside her, she could feel the dim imprint of flight upon her soul and her psyche. But it was something that Maria herself could not comprehend.

That day, she found herself in an unfamiliar part of the castle after chasing Melissa. She didn't know how long she'd left the soul of Willimgard behind; she felt guilt but also bewilderment—she'd tried hard to get answers out of Melissa and yet they wound up speaking of inane things instead.

They couldn't live apart. It was a truth neither one of them wanted to face, because neither of them was properly Marietta; either they would have to merge together to recreate her, or one of them would have to die. A soul split in twain went against the laws of the gods; they both knew the pain of such an existence.

Melissa was missing things too—the number of times she lost the thread of the conversation helped Maria realize just how much difficulty she had concentrating. It must have been by sheer force of will alone that she managed to concentrate on Ancardia so fiercely; it boggled the mind.

Maria admitted her own loss willingly if reluctantly; Melissa's liquid blue eyes softened and she touched Maria's back a little hesitantly before murmuring "I'm sorry".

This was how Maria learned that aimless chaos could be as equally kind and cruel as hard-focused order, but there were so many things she still didn't understand and never could.

It wasn't too long after that, actually; while wondering where Willimgard had gotten to, Maria happened upon their staff. She wondered—had to wonder—if he really understood what a kindness he'd done her, if he really understood how much she needed it to be whole.

She hadn't the words to tell him, but she'd released the staff's power in battle to show him how much she could help him now in return.

—The results of that startled her as much as anyone, really.

It was for barely twenty seconds, and the strain on her body was incredible, but for those twenty seconds and those alone there were sunset-colored feathers erupting from behind the slope of her shoulders. Suddenly gravity meant very little and every obstacle in her path seemed so very very small. And she felt incredible.

It was for barely twenty seconds, but it was enough to make her hunger for more. If given wings like that—really and truly given them for ever more—she would rise through the sky all the way to the moon and dance across its alien soil, drunk on the pure concentrated joy of it all.

Maria wondered for a moment if this was what others meant by feeling alive.