"You look excited today."

"Of course! It only be natural!"

"Wait, why? Did something happen?"

"Extraordinary things always be happening."

"Come on, tell me. You always have neat stories."

"Kee... I be warning you. This information be top secret."

"Don't worry, you can trust me. You know I won't tell anyone."

"—Confidential. Hush-hush. Private! Your honor will go on the line."

"W-we're best friends, remember? On my honor, I promise I won't tell."

"Fine... Today, Great Mizuti heard of a mission. A secret, world-saving mission…"

The door shut. Kee's eyes opened, and he strained to sit up under the weight of his blankets. He looked
around—weak firelight struggled against the shadows on the floor; the stifled sounds of slumber rasped f
rom the bunk below. Nothing seemed to move, save the string of beads knocking gently against the door.

Outside a shadow vanished, and Kee started. So it hadn't been a dream. He pushed his blankets back and crawl
ed down the ladder from his bunk, paused, and slipped quietly to the window. Nothing lay beyond the orange-st
ained glass but the normal twilight landscape: the scattered flare of night torches, the stacked, brooding houses.

Not like he expected her to be there. She wasn't in her bed either, he saw, after peering down the hall that gyrated in
the firelight. Her sheets were bunched up where they had been pushed back minutes before, and a small indent still d
welled in her pillow. Kee let his shoulders sag. Even the air seemed to shiver with her absence. He should have known—

Now she would be through the village gates, half-gliding, half-bouncing, probably humming some ancestral song as she went. Th
e refrain would wind down, fall silent, and the night that had been lurking everywhere would crack open its hungry chops to swall
ow her. Then hideous quiet. All their childhood they had been suffocated with tales of the Earth's poison; she should have known.

It had always terrified him, how the infinity-creatures of the outside could be so pervasive; silence with its slick maw, darkness with its
coat of despair. Even the Earth, their tomb, hooked fingers always clawing upwards as if to escape from poison that burned it... and ins
ide, this boy, sole witness to something terrible and incredible all at once – a denial of them all. Apprehension began to descend on him.

But he lingered by the window. He stalled, as though if he waited long enough his limbs would animate and do what they had to on their ow
n; as though if he were patient enough, his arms would fetch a lantern for him, and a red coal to heat it, too; his fingers would snatch him hi
s tasseled cap off the shelf and throw it on; his stocky, determined figure would set out fearlessly into the night, just like the heroes of old, a
ll on its own, without his having to do anything. He waited, alert, and in the meantime his hands grew no less clammy, the night no less dark.

She would be far from the village by then. Past the ancient gates and unused roads, into the sunken veins that tangled across the dying E
arth, but not yet to the place where the Taintclouds began to lighten. That faraway place, which he had only seen a few times but dreamed
of often. At dawn, the sky's rising blue and pink clouds frisked and clung together, swirling into poisonous castles that were knifed from tim
e to time by lightning; a jagged cliff stood against it all, fixed with the dark, tortured faces of his ancestors. By morning she would be there.

He tried to imagine his life without her in it. Like a mask without paint, or the loss of sight by one already deaf and dumb. He could see himself
shrinking into corners again, fleeing the village bullies to any cobwebbed shadow he could find. The sensation of bruising was still familiar to hi
m, and so was that of cool, slimy mud. Having his knees kicked until he crumpled like ash in fire, falling, mud splattering under his mask—black s
liding into the crevices, plugging his nose and searing his eyes. Then they'd put their clogs to the back of his head and roll down on their toes...

Kee withdrew from the window. He had never been a brave person—the mole doesn't try to claw out of its grave—but he never cared. She h
ad always struggled in his place, enough for two people, enough for the whole village. But now she was breaking free and he was left to watc
h darkness pour into the hollow she had left behind. He had to stop her, for her own sake. The world lurked out there. Blood-red clouds that c
hurned like primordial soup. Night, bloated and tangible. For the look on her parents' faces when they found that this time she wouldn't be co
ming back. For all of the eyes that would brighten to see that she was gone, and all of the things that can be done when a hero isn't watching.

Yet somehow he was back by the side of his bed. He hadn't grabbed a lantern or his cap, he hadn't burst forth into the village square, he hadn't s
tarted across the dark mantle of the Earth or stopped to wonder at the Taintclouds or even sat down massage his aching feet. He wouldn't find h
er footprints dancing up the side of the cliff, and he would never brace against the wind, or listen to the distant thunder tumbling off into a lake of
clouds. He was just tired of turning circles in his head. Kee's legs helped him up the ladder and he wormed back into bed. No, he didn't think of Miz
uti climbing into her outrigger, skirt fluttering wildly, but of home, this red-choked village, the houses stacked upon one another and straining upw
ards, how it hadn't been enough for her; how if there had been no crests, no heights to climb up then she never would have tried to get out at all.

A/N: I originally wrote this for Legacy Now's prompt "dramatic airport scene," which has been rolling around in my head for I guess a few years now. Unfortunately this was as close as I could come to fulfilling the prompt; I ended up cutting out the part where Kee confronts Mizuti at Duhr Port because I figured it would be OOC for him to actually be assertive and try to stop her. Heh... (Hope you like it anyways, Mokona!)

As a side note, I had Mizuti and Kee's family's rooms connected here because that's the impression I got from the game. There were a lot more than three bunk beds in the house where you meet Mizuti's parents, and Kee's family was standing around too, so I assumed they all shared the place.

Anyways, yay for finally posting something (anything)! As always, feedback is appreciated and I hope you enjoyed. :D