Chapter IV

Wander dropped to one knee and placed his right hand over his heart, bowing his head. "My lady… " Lord Emon's eyebrows rose in surprise; he couldn't have expected the boy to accept Mono so easily. Most Guardians-in-training would turn up their nose at such a fragile creature. But what surprised him more were Mono's actions. She delicately flitted over to his side, taking his hand in hers and putting it to her own heart, smiling down at his upturned face. "Rise," she uttered, ever so softly. Wander rose to his feet, his hand still placed over her heart.

He could feel the flutter of her heartbeat; like the beating of wings, they looked into each others' eyes for the second time. For the second time, Wander felt as though he'd already met this maiden once before… "You two still have much to learn until the ritual, only then will you become Guardian and Priestess. But know this, thou shalt always be by each others side, you will come to know each other so well that there shall never be a bond stronger than thine," he took their hands and placed Wander's over Mono's.

"Now I take my leave. Wander, see to it that you take care of Mono well," said Emon, letting go of their hands and making his way out of the room. The air in the room grew heavy, the sunlight pouring in from the window. The heat from it seemed to light a fire in Wander's cheeks as his eyes were locked on hers. He found that he could not escape from those divine pools. Mono's pale face remained unchanged and even. At last he mustered the courage to speak, "Sometimes, I've felt as if we've met before. As if this day was fated since a long time ago… That night by the lake… why were you standing there?"

She let her hand slip out from under his, turning away from him and walking again to the window. Taking a deep breath in, she started, "When I was a child, I had the gift of foresight. I was a burden to my parents, to the village… and so they decided to leave me on the plains. It was there that Lord Emon found me, half dead, and took me to another village." Wander could hear the stoniness in her voice, but also her softness; her sadness. After a moment's pause, she resumed her story, "There I met a boy… he was kind to me… he taught me his language and the way of his people. He was –"

"I know," Wander interrupted, just as he saw a tear slide down her cheek, "Mono, I –" she turning around to face him once again. Slowly she came over to him and took his hand, "It's all right, I don't want to stand here dissecting the past, all that matters is the here and now." I don't want us to be of that time again, it's been so many years since then, she thought to herself, wanting to keep their childhood friendship in the past. A part of her was afraid that if she allowed those memories to reemerge, that she would lose Wander as he was now. As a young man, in training to be her Guardian. They would have the rest of their lives to create new memories.

"Let me take you somewhere," she said, a tiny smile invading her melancholy expression from a moment before. With that she took him back out to the courtyard and deeper into the confines of the temple walls. He followed behind her up a wide spiral stair that led them to an expansive building with great colonnades, fountains and a dome roof made of glass panes. Inside was a garden filled with such exotic fruits and flowers of an ilk he had not seen before. At the center was a small pool, where Mono led him to and stopped. Then she knelt by the edge of it and calmly motioned him to also kneel. "Look at the surface of the water, tell me what you see," she motioned over the water majestically. Wander looked but could only see their reflections in the water, "You tell me, then, my lady," he said. "Alright," she said, turning to look at their reflection, "I see us…but only as we are now, never older."

"As do I," Wander retorted, not understanding her meaning. "We will never be aged, we will remain this way forever," she looked into his eyes. He could see her tears welling up. Would they die young? Was that what she meant? Or would they become immortalized for their good deeds by the gods? Whatever she had meant, it did not seem to be good news. Moved by her distress, Wander embraced Mono, holding her firmly in his arms. Her tears became quiet sobs and she buried her face into his shoulder, allowing herself to be drawn into his comforting warmth. For the first time in a long time, she rested peacefully against the breast of her long-lost childhood friend.