Chapter One: The Grass is Greener…
The air did nothing to refresh her in that moment of weakness. It did nothing to soothe the ache in her muscles, nor steady the grip she had on her sword—one that was a quivering hold, one that gave her away treacherously. Her nerves of steel were frayed, as useful as a few filaments of yarn when it came to the task of holding herself together. She was, overall, in a state of disrepair…and no amount of her flinty glares could veil it.
The world was crooked, and Saya was only vaguely aware that it was because of the fact that she herself was tilted. Subconsciously, her head had lolled a bit to the right as she burrowed deep into her psyche, daring to touch upon thoughts she had impulsively labeled to be taboo. She had never allowed herself to consider the other side; then again, she had never had the luxurious time to do so. From the moment she had been thrust into her role as the Red Shield's queen, up until this point, she had been pushed and pulled and coerced and coaxed into thoughtless action. It had only been in the dark hours, just before the escape of sleep, when she'd even remembered the possibility of the other side—but that would have brought along painful memories, demons that would plague her and skeletons that would rattle their bones in her closet, keeping her awake, and the additional burden couldn't be borne.
Contemplation and confusion left her feeling sluggish, as though she were drowning in some wave she had always been able to barely outrun before, and now flailed vainly against the pressure and intensity of it all.
Saya didn't need to look to know Haji was hovering beside her, gauging her reaction to the sudden opportunity, waiting for her to articulate her order, to express her unquestionable demand. To do anything but simply tremble like a weakling. She knew he would be in a stance that, while not outwardly aggressive, would still be taut and alert. He was a lion, languidly crouched, ready to attack with unseen claws—at that moment, she was nothing more than some mouse. She was wide-eyed and watchful, but by no means capable of threatening her two opponents.
But did they have to be opponents? Was that really the design fate had fashioned for her as she came to life?
With a dizzying sweep of shock, Saya realized she felt no guilt after such thoughts. Normally, she might berate herself or anyone who'd challenge the way of things, the balance; however, no semblance of remorse trailed after her like some sickly puppy. She didn't know if this sudden self-awareness had been physically traceable, but suddenly, the look in Diva's keen eyes took on a sense of smugness.
The younger queen was latched onto her own chevalier, preening herself by pulling at a long tress every now and then and swishing the flowing skirt of her dress. Throughout the entirety of this short altercation, she had retained a highly contemptuous air. Not like that was out of the ordinary for her, though it seemed to be amplified by the fact that her blonde-haired companion was devoting what was—to Diva—a disgustingly large amount of time on her sister.
"Saya," Solomon said, with notes of unashamed pleading ringing bitter sweetly in her ears. She wished she could block it—along with everything else—out. She longed to go deaf to his importunacy; to Diva's insistent humming; to the voices of her past. He'd just offered her a life far different from the one she had known, even from the one she had forgotten. Solomon had extended the option to be a sister, as well as a queen. To no longer look upon Diva as an enemy, and instead see her as a familial individual, as someone who had known her in the womb before anyone else.
The Devil was tempting her. The forbidden fruit was inches from her hungry lips, aching as she chewed them with an impatient desperation. She had fasted forty day, forty years, forty lifetimes it felt like. Saya had starved herself of a bond that now, suddenly and strongly, felt like the perfect balm to her addled mind.
"Saya," A lower voice called to her softly, offering to be a life preserver as she struggled against a rip current. Saya schooled her features before she glanced at Haji, unwilling to let him see her inner turmoil, even if that meant he couldn't truly help her. But Haji saw through it, either because of their innate connection or because he had known and observed her far too long to be fooled by a façade. Even though he knew, and she knew he knew, Saya stubbornly looked away from him, straightening her posture as she did so.
She was anger, she was uncertainty—Saya felt like she became every damned emotion that slithered through her. She knew she had made a mistake the very second she lifted her gaze to meet Solomon's once more. With better prescience, she could have known that doing that would only get her lost in the fog of his blue eyes. But she did, and in that moment her heart went out, and it seemed to be crushed between the teeth of Diva's smile.
Almost imperceptibly, Saya nodded.
Somewhere deep within, Saya had a feeling Solomon would have cut the distance between them to shreds of nothingness had his little queen not been possessively latched onto his arm. Diva had been half-heartedly twisting her pinky along the short coils of his hair when she stiffly jerked her head around to stare at Saya, as if she could smell the submission. Haji had gone rigid beside her. No longer was his stance one of stoic assurance. He stilled remained in a defensive position, but a mere look into his eyes showed he had been thrown mentally off balance.
Haji reached out his human hand, as if going to touch her and shake her back to reason; but, he ultimately left it hanging in midair, not even close to her body. Slowly, he asked, "…Is this what you truly wish, Saya? You must consider the implications…as well as the consequences."
Diva didn't allow for a response, not missing a single beat in the rhythm of conversation to voice her own opinion. Her lips curled mischievously, if not predatorily, as she crooned, "What? Sister, you don't want to play anymore? Getting tired of losing?"
"Diva, please," Solomon entreated, looking betwixt the two queens. He acted as a channel for peace, hoping to placate his queen's lust for blood and sadism enough for her to see some merit in allowing Saya to join them. His idea hadn't been novel; it had been simply viewed as a sheer impossibility.
By the looks of it, Saya assumed Solomon had welcomed her—the opposing queen, the intrinsic challenger—without the permission of her sister. Her keen brown eyes noted how Diva tightened her clutches on Solomon's arm. Though Diva never looked away from her sister, Saya could sense her younger sibling was by no means pleased that someone was trying to control her. Even if it was via a soft-spoken intention.
The strained moment of silence left worry clinching Saya's gut painfully. It allowed for doubt to come in and wreak havoc in her mind, in a time when she was most vulnerable—when she had allowed herself a moment to hope.
Diva won't accept me with open arms. I was a fool, to even allow myself to think that there was a chance…
"It's good that sister seems to have gotten some sense," Diva announced caustically. It sounded like more of a thought brought to articulation, rather than words meant for specific ears. "Without that annoyance to bother me, I can have more fun."
Beside her, Saya felt Haji stiffen at the unconcealed insult. It was twisted, and she would never admit it aloud, but relief spread through her like a wildfire, burning away old grief and warming her with the possibility of the future.
She looked at her chevalier, quickly and sharply. Saya doubted he could understand, or if he ever would, why she had chosen this. But in that moment, she didn't need his complete acceptance of the new life she had chosen. And the look she gave him said as much.
"If that is your wish, Saya," Haji conceded, giving not even the slightest hint of insurgence. He kept himself a blank surface, impervious to any marking that might give away an emotion. Saya was sure she would feel guilt later, as she always did when she treated Haji with anything less than an attitude of equality. Right now, though, she needed to ensure that Diva's vacillating tolerance of her remained in tact. If Haji played the advocate for Red Shield, it could sour her sister's attitude towards her. Or, perhaps even worse, put her taciturn chevalier's life in danger.
"It is," Saya declared, trying to sound self-assured and worthy. She might have agreed to unify with her sister's faction, but that didn't mean she'd suddenly turned into some door mat, allowing others to walk over her like easy prey.
Saya barely kept herself from giving a startled jump when her sister let go of Solomon and went into a quick, rather violent stretch. There was a look about her Saya had never seen before. And then it hit her. There was an air of sophomoric gloating that exuded from her being, much like a child who had succeeded in hoarding all the toys for herself. Diva was proud, as though Saya's consent had somehow glorified her abilities.
"I want to get out of this disgusting thing," Diva complained, pinching her dress between her thumb and forefinger. There was a bullet hole—probably from David, Saya reasoned, as he had the only good shot in the chaotic little group. With narrowed blue eyes, Diva looked at it disdainfully. "A silly human ruined it when he was shooting at me."
"Of course, I wouldn't dream of you suffering in it," Solomon replied, tenderness in his demeanor. Saya didn't know if he truly felt sympathy for his queen's 'torturous' attire, or if he was just eager to keep her mollified. "Would you like to go now? That human, and others, will probably come crawling through here soon."
Diva giggled, apparently appreciating the image of humans crawling, much like the bugs and vermin she viewed them to be. Saya felt strained and awkward, unsure what to do with herself. How to proceed? Thankfully—though really not a godsend—Diva crossed the distance between the pairs, a mere flicker to Saya's inexpert eyes.
She expected some sort of breach of personal space, and couldn't repress all her surprise when she felt a small breeze flutter her hair, coming from Diva's wake as she approached Haji. Diva invited herself to cross lines of propriety when she reached up on her tiptoes and slung her arms around Haji's neck. Saya knew she held no sway over her sister's actions, and could only watch as Diva yanked Haji down hard with one short, breathy little laugh. It was a powerful reminder—though how could she ever forget?—that Diva's strength was far greater than hers. And if it surpassed Saya, then her chevalier was like a mere doll in a vice-grip.
With Haji brought down to the level of her face, Diva emanated an air that was all the more victorious. Saya could see it was just a display of power, with Diva childishly wishing to prove that now she could control someone else's chevalier. While she was more than slightly chafed by the action, she believed it was a small price to pay for the armistice. A small part of her wondered if Haji would still see her the same way, if he would still follow her willingly rather than just because he had to.
But such small, timid thoughts were not things that would help her survive. They never had.
"I want your little chevalier to hold me," Diva stated, forcing Haji to support her weight as she leaned against him. "I've already had to deal with humans, and being carried will make it so I don't have to do anything else boring…like walk."
Naturally, Haji looked to Saya. There was a strange severity about him still, one that made her insecure thoughts return, but she crushed them with a blink of her eyes. "It's fine, Haji."
She'd tried to sound firm and confident, but her tone hadn't been quite right. Saya weighed the chances of Diva killing Haji and decided to place a newfound, though still tentative trust in her sister. As Haji lifted Diva, she realized Solomon had come to stand beside her. There was an unspoken offer for similar treatment, but Saya wearily declined. It would feel better, she decided, to take the first running steps into her new life on her own two feet.
"I'll lead the way, then," Solomon said placidly, and with those words he set in motion their small caravan. Saya hadn't been sure how she would cope with the sudden reality of the situation, but she had never expected it to feel like this. She had never expected to feel such exhilaration.
Author's Note: So I cranked out today, and hopefully this chapter didn't suffer because of it. For those of you knew who don't know, I'm rebooting an old story of mine, one I was writing before my random little (by that I mean ridiculously long) hiatus. Meet the new and hopefully improved Unforgivable!
Oh, and I thought you should know I'm updating this while marooned at a gas station. Our car, ever the consistently magical thing, decided to stop randomly. It's a classy chassi haha. (':
Please read, love/hate/contemplate and then realize its good enough to continue, review/critique….because I deserve it for suffering at a McDonalds at a gas station. So, so much suffering haha.