Amaranth

By: Ashurato


Those days, she did not know much other than pain and survival. When small child first arrived, the winged folk of the Alti'ui approached and asked where she came from, but she could not answer when she did not know herself. They asked for her name, but she did not have one. They inquired about the blades wrapped in cloth that she carried in her arms, but she would only hold them closer. Too quickly, they took her silence for disrespect and took pains to not cross her path.

Not that she did much to dissuade such thoughts. For what seemed like years, she kept to herself in the forest with little interaction with society. When she was not foraging through the greenery or fishing by the river, she spent most of her time underneath a tree with leaves as snowy as her hair. For those rare few who caught a glimpse, they likened her to the spirit of the tree until she opened her eyes and radiated no mystical energy. Then, all they could see was an aberration, an ominous winged changeling that infiltrated the Alti'ui.

That was... until the day a shopkeeper stumbled upon her as he was picking tea.


Myura adjusted the pack on his back to relieve the pressure that pinned his right wing flush against his body. He pushed his long black hair out of his violet eyes and although he was still rather young, the burden he carried made him huff like an old man. The growing miasma caused by the Humans and their Technology was affecting the young tea leaves even in the Sacred Lands, but he is still able to find ones of fine quality deeper in the forest. Unfortunately, he was too consumed by his task that he had lost track of both the time and his surroundings.

Now, Myura found himself utterly lost.

He meant to take flight, but the canopy of trees and twisted branches did not offer enough passage to the sky. He also risked losing his harvest if the winds were too strong. Thus, he was forced to wander around on foot. But after hours of wandering, even his patience was growing thin.

"What is that?"

A bright light peeked between the dark leaves to his right. His curiosity piqued, Myura pushed aside the foliage to reveal a small, grassy clearing with a single marble-white tree growing in the center. The light of the early sun poured into the clearing and made everything glow.

Stunned by the sight, Myura walked into the clearing with utter fascination and approached the tree. He held out a hand to touch the tree trunk, but a thin humming sound from the sharp blade aimed at his throat made him pause. His violet eyes followed the length of the blade down to the small, ghostly silver child seated on the base of the tree. The child's hair was the color of snow, her skin was pale as if never touched by the sun, and the white ragged cloth that covered her blended perfectly against the bark of the tree. She looked to be about nine Human years old. Her eyes were closed, but Myura wondered if they would also be the color of pearls should they open.

He dropped his hand from the tree and raised them in a placating manner. "I mean no harm. I just wanted to look at this beautiful Asaran tree."

"You did not ask for permission," said the child in a whispering voice. "And looking does not require your hands. Do it again and I will cut them off to remind you."

If Myura was less composed, his jaw would have dropped at the threat-especially coming from a small child. But as he looked at the trembling in her hands, the torn clothes, and bare feet, he could only feel sympathy. "I apologize, I did not mean to be so rude. May I touch the tree, young child?"

The child retracted her blade, but her reply was still in the form of a sharp hiss. "Don't ask me, fool. Ask the tree." She covered her blade once again and sat down on the other side of the tree away from Myura.

The side of Myura's lips twitched with amusement. He looked up at the tree and-although there was no wind-could almost sense it shaking in a mirror to the laughter he tried to suppress.

"Asaran... is that the name of this tree?"

Myura was surprised that the child addressed him again, now with badly hidden curiosity in her voice. "Yes. But they were all supposed to be gone, so I am surprised to find one here. This may be the only one of its kind left."

"Like me..." said the child in a voice so quiet that Myura almost did not hear it.

Myura weighted the choices in his mind and against his better judgment, he walked around and sat next to the child, careful not to let even a single feather of his wings touch her. "Are you the guardian of this tree?"

The child only bent her head and clung tighter to her blades.

"Do you have a name?"

"Is that of so much importance that that is all anyone ever asks of me?" said the child with pure bitterness. "I do not have one.'

Myura craned his neck to gaze upon the child's bent head and snowy hair, his memory recalling a rumor that he had heard years ago. Ah, so this is that child. The silver demon that they say has possessed this forest. I never listened then... but... she looks so fragile. "Asaran. May I call you Asaran?"

"What makes you think I want a name, fool? Go back and leave me alone like the rest of them."

Myura smiled at the half-hearted attempt at rejection. He knew the rumors, but unless he saw the truth for himself, it was no reason to grow prejudices. "May I stay for only a short while? I have been wandering this forest for hours now and would like a little rest before I continue on. Please, Asaran?"

"Are you asking permission from the tree or me?"

"What do you think?" Myura replied cheekily.

"... do as you see fit."


Three years passed.

Asaran was the type of child that Myura knew had a heart that was locked up tighter than the Sacred Lands from the rest of the planet. He counted himself lucky that she would deign to speak to him in civil terms as long as he maintained a proper distance and did not ask her a multitude of prying questions.

Even after all these years, he knew very little about her.

Instead, he taught her what he knew.

"Now don't put too much or the steeping time will be wrong. Remember, exactly one spoonful per cup and not a leaf more. Put it in the pot, pour the hot water, and then turn the glass so that the sand flows down."

"This is a ridiculous process," snarled Asaran as she tried to balance the blades in her arms and the heavy teapot in her hands. "I do not understand why you subject yourself daily to this idiocy, Myura."

But Myura knew that despite her complaints, Asaran followed his every instruction with excitement that radiated from her form. He wondered if this was what it would feel like to have a daughter. But then he shook the thought out of his head when Asaran snapped him back to attention.

"Right, so what will it be today?" Myura held up two containers, one filled with milk and the other filled with golden honey.

Asaran's brows knit with annoyance, but her eyes remained closed. "Don't ask stupid questions." She gently set the teapot down on the grass and reached her hand out for both.

Myura smiled, but said nothing as he studied her face. She appeared the same as she had three years ago-unsurprising as Alti'ui aged slowly-but every now and then, he could see a small smile twist the corner of her lips. She now also addressed him without being addressed first.

But Asaran still flinched at the slightest bit of magic he performed, even basic ones that would start a small fire. And he still had not seen the color of her eyes. He watched as she poured herself a cup of tea, poured both the milk and the honey, and took a small sip. She grimaced before adding another spoonful of honey into the cup.

It amused Myura that for all her unfriendly nature, Asaran had an insatiable sweet tooth.

"Will you come home with me today?"

"Are we going to have this conversation again?" growled Asaran, annoyed at being interrupted during snack time.

"I keep hoping that your answer will change one of these days."

"And I tell you that I would sooner swallow my kodachi whole than step foot in that village. Will it take a live demonstration for you to accept that I am not welcome just because I have the same wings and breathe the same air as the lot of you?"

Myura sighed. "For one who is still a child, you think the worst in people. I can-"

"And you think too highly of everyone. You think that your presence would shield me from their rumors and their barbed words. I simply think differently." Asaran took another sip before she set her teacup on the ground.

"You are too young to live on your own."

"I can fly well enough by myself. Do not assume that I owe anything to you," Asaran's tone was as sharp as her swords. Although she faced Myura with closed eyes, he still felt himself intimidated by her heavy gaze. She was not like the others, not like him, but he could not help but try.

"Asaran-"

"I think you should stop coming here, Myura."

Myura gaped with wide violet eyes. He first could not comprehend the words that the girl spoke, but he then stood and looked down at her with shock. "But-but... Asaran, what are you talking about?"

But the rest of his words caught at his throat when he saw eyes the color of freshly spilt blood staring darkly back at him. It felt like an eternal curse that robbed his senses and he felt himself chilled to the bone despite the warm sunlight.

This was the demon changeling of the rumors. This was why Asaran chose to live in her world of darkness despite the light. She was much too cursed to be graced by magic.

For the first time since they met, Myura felt a destructive fear of Asaran.

Asaran sighed and closed her eyes. She knew that they were all the same and Myura's reaction would be no different despite the length of their association. But she felt no pain, only a profound disappointment. "Leave, Myura. Do not come here again."

Myura watched as she walked into the shadows of the forest, wanting to follow and explain himself. But his feet were rooted to the ground and his tongue felt heavier than lead.


Weeks passed before Myura shook off his trepidation and gathered enough courage to make the trek back into the forest. In his hands, he carried a box containing a white and gold tasseled hat-a peace offering should Asaran prove too angered by his continued solicitation.

But as he closed his door behind him, a man and a woman approached him from behind.

"You are going to visit her again, Myura? You should leave well enough alone if you are to stay safe!" said the woman as she wrung her hands in worry.

A look of confusion painted Myura's face as he tightened his hold on the box. He felt the feathers of his wings ruffle in tension at what his neighbors were saying. "How did you know where I have been? And there is no reason to fear Asaran, she's just a little child-"

"The changeling has a name! She is different from us, Myura!" half-shouted the man, incredulous as he pointed towards the forest. "We are defined by our magic and our connection to the sky and the natural world. An Alti'ui with no magic is no Alti'ui but a creature cursed by bad fortune. For all we know, she is in league with the Humans! Their pollution did not become apparent until she appeared from the forest!"

"There are people who see where you go when you think no one is paying attention, Myura. Do not let your mind be twisted by the innocence she exudes," added the woman as she and the man walked back towards the path. "She is a beast that is not to be trusted."

Myura hesitated as he watched the couple until they were out of sight. He looked down at the parcel in his hands as his mind raced, but his thoughts were interrupted by different man and woman who approached him. He glanced up sorrowfully. "May I help you?"

The man and woman glanced at each other before the woman spoke. "Most people do not feel that way, Myura. Only the most conservative of the Alti'ui do."

"Most of us believe that she is simply the victim of misfortune rather than the harbinger of it," said the man with a shake of his head. "But perhaps is it still best if you distance yourself from her, Myura. It does not bode well to split a community in half for a single parentless child."

"I... will think about it," whispered Myura defeatedly before he tore off for the forest. "But I must see her now."

In his rush, he did not see the pair of sorrowful crimson eyes hidden in the shadows that hardened into sharp, chipped gemstones.


Myura gasped for breath like a fish out of water as he stumbled into Asaran's clearing. He fell to his knees as soon as he reached his destination. The clearing was a distance from the village, usually taking him an hour to reach by foot, as it was not accessible for Alti'ui with adult wingspans from above. In his desperation, he completed the trip in half the time.

"I told you not to come back here, Myura."

The dark-haired man glanced up with a smile on his face, having missed the quiet voice in the past few weeks. But as his violet eyes blinked back the glare of the light, he wished that he could have been blinded. A dark vermilion shade encompassed his vision as it flowed in thin rivulets down a white figure. A dead Human man, pinned by two crimson blades like a butterfly to a piece of cardboard, bled out against the silver-leafed tree. His blood stained the ground like flower petals, fresh and warm as if he was recently killed. A dark grayish mist covered the ground around his feet.

Myura dropped his peace offering as he doubled over, coughing with his hands over his mouth as his stomach churned in horror. He wildly glanced around for the figure of Asaran as she stepped out from behind her namesake, her eyes as bright as the crimson flower petals that dyed the fabric she wore. Her lips were twisted in the mockery of a child's innocent smile, but not an ounce of warmth radiated from her expression as she mercilessly pulled her kodachi from the corpse.

She flicked the weapons to her sides, drawing sharp arcs of blood against the green grass, but the blades remained stained the same crimson color. With the same glacial smile, she approached Myura and stared down at him, reversing their position from several weeks ago.

"Why... how... was a Human able to enter the Sacred Lands?" sputtered Myura as his form radiated terror and distrust. "Are you truly in league with them?"

"You are still as much of a fool as ever," laughed Asaran. "If I was in league with them, then how could I possibly explain this? How could I-who do not associate with those of my own kind-actually bring myself to ally with such greedy, destructive creatures? You're joking.

"But the way your mind works is rather fascinating. Showing more concern over the presence of a Human, dead or otherwise; the Alti'ui are just as single-minded as I had assumed. But don't worry, you can all rest easy and allow me to kill two birds with one stone."

Myura's hands dropped from his mouth and he stared dumb-founded at the child before him. At that moment, Asaran felt so much older than himself. "What do you mean, Asaran?"

Without a word, Asaran walked towards the blood stained tree and her kodachi flashed once horizontally, neatly cutting through the trunk like butter and felling the tree away from them with a loud crash.

"ASARAN!" shouted Myura with horror at what she had done.

Asaran viciously turned around and pointed her sword threateningly at Myura. "Do not call me by that name. No longer will any Asaran remain upon this world. They have been destroyed by pollution of both the physical form and that of the spoken word."

The words that Myura wanted to form vanished into thin air as he watched the trunk of the tree turn gray and then black-a victim of Human pollution. "How long has the tree been dead?" he asked lamely.

"That is no longer of your concern. Blame me if you must, I do not care," said Asaran with a wave of her hand. "The Alti'ui wanted for me to be a villain and for the Humans to be removed from these lands. I would gladly fulfill the conditions of both." She walked back towards Myura and reached in the box next to him to pull out the white and gold headdress. She stared at it for a minute before placing it on her head.

"I suits you..." said Myura in a breaking voice, his hair fell like a curtain to hide his face. "I did not mean to offend you, child. And I am sure the others would understand once they get to know you. It would be better if you stayed, As-"

"I do not want to," replied the child with a closed-eyed smile. "I have no need for stagnant peace now that I have tasted death. I will take one more thing from you before I depart, Myura: part of your name. If we do not meet again, know that part of you will always be with me. From today on, my name is Asura."

"Asura... Promise that you will stay safe and that I will see you again."

But Myura's words fell upon deaf ears as Asura walked away from the light and into the darkness of the forest.

"The tea you made for me... it was delicious."

Fin


Author's Notes/Disclaimer:

- I hold no rights to the avatar site, Trisphee. Though Asura… I suppose her ownership can be debated. :)

- Myura is an original character, so he belongs to me.