Elegance and Blood

Chapter 8

Author's note,

Well this is the last of the 50 Challenge prompts. Hopefully you all had as much fun with it as I did. Thanks for reading.

Kasan Soulblade

Post script:

to simargl,

As you didn't log in I have to reply here. Thank you for reviewing, and I'm glad you liked my efforts. This is the last segment, hope it was as good as the previous.

46)drive

After the mushroom road faisco he boarded his Albiore wanting nothing more than to be gone, take a shower, and sleep, roughtly in that order. Shuckling off mold cacked casic, than tabard, he stormed to the front of the Albiore, orders to go to Batical catching in his teeth.

"Oh"ing and "aw"ing, and marvling over the central control panel was not his piolet, but Noelle.

"Where's Ginji?" Asch snarled.

The distracted "on the Albiore" didn't help much. Looking perfectly content to stay on his ship and never go back to hers, Noelle began to fuss with the piolets chair. Clearly the woman intended to put down roots. With a growl Asch advanced, loomed over her, written in the lines of his face, shaded in the green of his eyes, was every reason he'd been called "the Bloody."

Noelle just never bothered to look up to read it, that's all.

Forceibly prying her from the chair (she wailed, like a little kid being denied a toy) he dragged her behind him (she protested by snatching at every surface possible to slow him down, the scrap of her nails on the steel was really annoying) he threw her off the ramp leading up the the airships entrance (the splat of her impact with the mynocid speckled beach was spectacular) and watched her fall with a cold, bitter smile. Sputtering, indignant, she glared up at him, and he grinned down at her, baring his teeth in a Necromancer's smile.

"I've heard stories of your driving lady. And you're insane if you think you're taking me anyplace. This is my Albiore, Ginji is my piolet, and that's that!"

"Jerk!" Noelle snarled up at him.

Still baring his teeth in a wolfs grin, the Bloody slammed a button and the front "door" slid closed. Cuting off the rest of the woman's protests with a steely hiss. Desciding a change of plans was in order (shower first, than leaving, hopefully Ginji would be back from wherever he was after Asch was done cleaning up) the God General trooped to the back of the ship and the rude "freashening up area" that Ginji had added in when it became obvious they'd be avoiding cities, towns, and other hot spots of civilization. Hopefully Ginji would come back all on his own, if he wsan't and Asch had to go after the boy he'd be profoundly... irritated to say the very least.

47) Harm

Because of what he'd done, and who he was, he swore up and down he'd never take the name of Luke Fon Fabre ever agin. He wasn't needed... they had a Luke, his return would only do more harm than good.

He'd known this. Made it the key decision that he'd center his whole life around. Gripping surity like he'd hold his sword (always, near at hand, solid as steel) he'd moved on with his life. As hellish as it was, this was his life, there was no going back...

"Lu- Asch, please wait for us!" But if he was so sure... why did it hurt so? To hear her stutter, struggle through a name he'd let behind to a name he'd honestly earned. Eventually she'd learn, his name wasn't Luke anymore. She'd learn and eventually that small hesitance would stop, and maybe the pain would too...

But until then... He picked up the pace. A few steps from running, he'd leave them, and her, and the pain both.

"Asch!"

To hell with her.. or any of thier protest, he abandoned all pretense and ran.

48) Precious

He held her once. Pulled her close as lovers do, and greatly daring kisser her in the same fashion. Her soft gasp and wide eyes told him without words that no one had ever done so for her. No one had dared. No one had thought of her as he did, moved to hold her as he did...

Delight, so rare and sweet, made him smile.

There'd been no other loves in her life. Just him. Only him

"What... you..." She babbled, shocked beyond telling at his sudden show of warmth. Then, flushing as she spied his smile, she looked at him, confused but the glory that was her eyes was magnificent. He drank in the sight, even as he dared another kiss. It lasted longer, tasted sweeter, she shivered and to that he broke off.

She wanted an explaination, for the fires in her blood and the smoldering in his eyes. Still so very young... He smiled more at what her innocence told than for the fact that her purity was quite intact.

"Just because you're..." A worldfull of words crouded his throat... amazing, beautiful, wonderful, he coulghed, forgoing the flowery words, cut to the heart of the matter. "Just beause... you're you I suppose." Asch explained lightly, reaching up he slid his fingers through her hair. "And because opprotunity is so very rare. What, with the others either shopping or sparing... Let's say I couldn't resist and leave it at that.. hmm?"

And though he answered her there was something of a question to her gaze, a curiousity, and neither dimmed the glory in her gaze. Neither stole the warmth of her regard or dulled the flush from her cheeks. Loosing his grip, Asch sighed, precious though this was, it was only a moment, and all moments went away eventually.

"I.. have to-"

"No." Tightening her grip, holding him close, she comforted and restrained all at once. "Not now, please, just a little longer."

And, because she meant so much to him, he obliged.

49) Hunger

No matter how hungry he was, Asch always muttered a quick "I'm on a fast, religious reasons" whenever Natalia cooked.

It was just easier that way.

50) Believe

Quietly she worked. Gathering yarns and tales, twining speculation to truth. Bit by bit she was able to -at least partially- weave together the tale of his years. The span of her research consisted of that time after his capture to his last bitter days.

Driven by depseration, dogged by dispair, he'd discovered the manman under a father's facade. And, greatly daring mental degrgation of his own he'd confronted the madman's schemeing, losing his last precious illusion at a tender age. Turning angles and slants subtly (for he'd been watched, always) teasing the edges, glimpsing shape and forum from the glossy lines of speculation, he'd delved the workings of the derainged. Gleaning knowledge from the edge he'd strived to weaken each plan while appearing to go along with it. At that distant time he'd dared nothing more, was confident in his efforts as he'd seen the rim subtly cracking, there had been time... Plenty of time he'd (so she assumed) believed, a lifetime when you came down to it.

Still, one stark fact came and stuck. He'd always been alone, she tried to imagine anyone striving against such odds and contradiction alone and failed. Even with the others, with the brilliant Colonel, coniving Anise, steadfast Guy and Tear, and compassionate Luke... and so many others... They had come in late, barely comprehending, always a step behind, and they had been together and barely coped and understood. How one man, alone, had survived seven years when that one year had almost broken the mall.. Her vision failed her, yet the facts compiled, proving the impossibility. H'ed begun alone, strived alone, and had died... this.

His death was another point of contradiction.

He had died due to rage, losing out too deamins he couldn't have won against. He'd died due to illness, the fonons breaking down at hte wrong time had triggered some sort of fit... He'd died...

Regardless of the reasons he had died, and though they might say they knew, those who'd been with Asch along the edges of his life hadn't really known. None of them did.

"Does it matter what we believe?" Jade had gently teased her about her little project. He knew of her grief of course, and that knowledge did much to soften his wry smile. Inserting a kind of delicate, tender, caution in what was normally a calous gesture. "What do you believe?"

Flaberghasted she'd said nothing, and with a nod in farewell Jade had left her to her thoughts.

What did she believe? Not in Lorelei, never again in that. Fate, destiny. and God, had become so incestually intertwined that she rejected the lot of it with a sick horror. With the keystones of a layman's faith so vily exposed, belief alluded her. For beleif without God, and the Score had been -not so long ago- been considered a forum of maddness.

Knowing better, she merely carried on, and existed without faith for the longest of times.

Still she circled the question, subconciously knowing that the would rended from so deep within must be healed, in some way, some how.

Least she bleed out, from the inside, from the heart.

"We made a promise..."

His words, her words, recalled and charished (almost sacrid) hung in her mind. A kind of revelations, save without the holy attached.

"To change this country."

(Let's change this country...)

(So that no one is poor, no one dies in war, no one goes hungry, so that there is no sickness that goes untreated...)

"We must change." Natalia whispered, looking at the hostile, glowering faces of her council... no her father's council. "We, as nobility, can not glory ourselves on the labor of our countrymen. All must be taught to read. All must have access to doctors. No private armies will be permited. The preace treaties that you rankle at, those with Daath and Malkuth, will be honored."

They roared at her. Enraged beyond reason. Still, she hung fast, would hold on to throne and country as long as she could. And though they might eventually devest her of her power (power was precarious after all, but not precious, life had taught her beter than that), they had no power to dim her beleif in a promise made so long ago.

What she was doing was right. She would not be swayed.

such was the strength of her beleif.