Shadow

Her eyes had always been trained to his back. She had grown up with scrapes and bruises, had stumbled home with bloody noses and cut lips more often than not. Her mother had scolded her for torn clothes and broken bones, but to keep up, these were things she sacrificed. He was always two steps ahead, always just out of reach.

She wished there was a way for her to keep him back, wished she could tell him to slow down for her, so she could catch up. Yet she never did, never said anything to him because that would be the worst thing she could do. She'd never be forgiven for that kind of selfishness. He had his own dreams, it was arrogant to put hers above his. So she pushed. Anything short of death was only a dip in the road. She'd come out stronger, sharper, with warrior's pride and skill.

And he'd always be ahead of her. He was destined for things she couldn't reach.

He had been gone at Sanctuary for nearly four years when she went to earn her Cloth. That was all she had. Her parents were gone. Her brother was dead. Jamir was slowly emptying and there was nothing left to hold her there.

Her nails tore and bled as she climbed the steep face of the cliff to where the armor was said to sit, and her mouth was caked with a thick layer of dirt. The air was thin here, though she ignored it; living in Jamir accustomed her to high altitudes and cold. Her foot slipped with the next step, and she dug her fingers into the rock with a hiss, clinging. She forced herself to not look down, since she knew it served no purpose other than her own torture.

"Focus," she grit her teeth, looking up, "Focus."

She reached up, snagging the next hold. Pulling herself up, she felt herself relax as her foot settled firmly onto the rock. She was almost there.

Yet even if she reached it, she was still behind, a child clumsily following footprints in the snow. He was a Gold Saint, something she couldn't hope to achieve, and had been for this whole time. How much farther was he? How wide had the distance between them stretched? She had always planned to follow him; was she even doing that much, or was she simply chasing shadows of someone who might not even exist anymore?

Her hands shook as she pressed tighter against the cliff, closing her eyes as she caught her breath. She knew all it would take would be one moment of weakness, to relax her muscles for just long enough to let the wind catch her and pull her off. No one would be surprised, she was sure her master half expected it. She swallowed dryly and tasted dirt. Then she opened her eyes and gripped another hand-hold.

This was just another dip in the road.