It was a dark and stormy night.
The Tower of the Phoenix, the tallest building in Phoenix Castle
and home to Lord Riou, shook. It wasn't a gentle shaking, either. The castle
had stood here for decades, but this tower was new, and maybe, just maybe
it wasn't as well built as the other, older parts...
Luc sighed. No, of course it was well built. But there hadn't
been a storm like this for years, and it was having certain effects on the
stone. Powerful winds rattled the window shutters and in some places, tore
the green-lacquered wood clean off the hinges; it danced in the empty streets,
whistled around the corners. Rain pounded a loud staccato on the slated roofs
and ran in great rivers over the cobblestones, turning stairs into tiny
The storm of the century. It felt like an omen. What would
tomorrow bring? Would he meet his destiny then? Or did the wind perchance
cry for someone else? All he knew was that tomorrow... he would set out to
face another battle. The last, he hoped. Fighting was so... barbaric. Beneath
He should sleep. He didn't get enough rest these days; he was
well aware of it. But the wind... was something more important. The wind
was a part of him, and while it was awake, he could not sleep.
"You there! Stop - oh. Forgive me, I did not notice..."
Luc glared up at the soldier who blocked his path. "Very well.
Get thee gone, warrior, and let me pass," he told the man, wasting a good
dose of his best sarcasm.
"Sorry, but I can't let anyone in or out - besides, you shouldn't
go up on the roof in this weather."
"Thank you." Luc waved his hand tiredly. "But I'm still
going to pass you one way or another."
The man considered this for a moment. Then he stepped aside.
Luc almost pitied him.
The young sorcerer climbed the stairs. He unlatched the hatch
leading onto the roof and stepped out -
The wind was overwhelming. It pulled him, staggering, back,
almost sending him over the edge; the rain blinded him, the drops stinging
his eyes. He stood his ground and awakened his Rune, twisting the air to
circle around the tower, leaving the immediate area free from turbulence.
Suddenly the stone stopped shaking; he was standing in complete and utter
He drew a deep breath. The air tasted fresh, much better than
inside the musty castle. There was a slight tinge of ozone, and as he noticed
that, lightning flashed overhead, followed almost instantly by a thunderclap.
The weather gods were really putting effort into this one. Or maybe they
were having a big argument. Either way, it was spectacular. Forked bolts
danced across the sky, leaving burning purple afterimages in his eyes.
Luc opened his arms wide as if to embrace the storm, threw
his head back, and laughed. His concentration slipped, and a gust of wind
tugged at him, but he remained standing, enjoying the wind and the rain.
This was his life. Wind, and rain. The wind, free, but without roots... drifting
aimlessly. Like he had been, until he found her. Or maybe she had
found him. He wasn't certain. And then there was rain. Rain for eternal sorrow,
rain for the tears he had shed in loneliness and bitter resentment towards
humanity. It felt better now, he must admit. Even after these hardships,
it still felt better now. He took care not to show it, but he couldn't deny
to to himself. It felt better. Not without sorrow, but... better.
Curse it... who am I fooling... I'm only seventeen, I shouldn't
be seeing this... Perhaps... no one 'should' be seeing this.
Barbaric. That was what it was.
And the castle seemed... empty. It was strange, how something
like that... could strike with such precision at the heart, the spirit, of
There had been countless deaths, but for some reason, everybody
felt different about...
He hadn't liked Nanami. Not one bit. He even actively disliked
her. Whenever he had heard her voice, he wished she would just go away. And
now that she was gone...
And what made things worse was that he wasn't alone. It wasn't
Lightning flashed towards him, and earthed itself in the ground
right next to the tower, repelled by the Rune. He hardly even noticed.
Why didn't anyone cry for the hundreds who had lost their lives
before her? Why was she so different? He couldn't understand, even though
he felt it himself, and it bothered him. He hated not understanding. It made
him feel weak, and he hated feeling weak. Even as he loved the rain, he hated
it, too, for making him remember his weakness. Weakness! He stood here,
commanding a power beyond mortal ken, and still he was weak! He held
up his right hand, palm towards him, and stared angrily at the Rune, its
intricate lines and curves, its flickering aura of green, cyan and blue.
Twenty-seven True Runes in the world, and here he stood, holding the one
that symbolised something that in turn symbolised his life; wind.
He could feel the air. It let him. And now he heard
it move behind him; long before he heard the voice speak to him.
"Oh. So you are here too." A voice he knew well.
"Oh no, not you again." What did she do, follow him?
He heard the sharp click-tap noise of hard shoes against the
stone. "You don't seem too happy to see me."
"I'm not." No point in being anything else but frank. Everybody
knew he said what was on his mind. He couldn't put much effort into it right
now, however. He crossed his arms over his chest, tucking his right hand
under his left arm. He didn't want to talk about it. She was the only
one who understood, anyway. No point in trying to talk to anyone else about
Lighting flashed. It illuminated their features sharply. In
the short moment of brightness, he saw that she was wrapped in a heavy cloak;
dark, though he could not discern which colour, and long, brushing the ground.
"What are you doing out here in this weather, this late in
the evening?" she asked.
"What are you doing?" He didn't want to talk. What was
"Nothing much. Thinking."
"...yes." He left it at that.
"And watching the storm, of course," she continued, seemingly
ignoring the last remark. "I have... always found lighting... fascinating."
He decided to try again. "Be careful not to attract it. I don't
have enough strength to protect both of us." Hmph. Come to think of
it, he probably had. He could probably banish the storm with a wave of his
hand. If he'd only known how.
"But I do."
He turned his head to glare at her, and found electric light
glittering in her eyes, the grey turned lightning-blue, and a corona of white
fading into deep blue surrounding her hand; the symbol of a Lightning Rune
marking otherwise flawless, pale skin.
"Fine..." He turned away before the next lightning bolt could
show him looking at her. Maybe he wasn't getting rid of her, but better then
to ignore her than to acknowledge her presence. Perhaps she would leave then.
Not that he had any great hopes.
"So... what are you... thinking about, then?"
"...that isn't true, is it."
He turned to glare at her again, perfect timing; a bolt striking
the ground only a few hundred metres away sharply revealing his scowl. She
only smiled back; her silver hair, not tied back tonight, plastered about
her head and shoulders; water running down her face, soaking her cloak and
making it hug her shoulders. He probably looked worse, he realised. Not that
it bothered him. It was only water. The tears of the gods perhaps, but still,
That smile bothered him, though. He had the horrible feeling
she thought he was... 'cute', or something.
"...perhaps. Nothing that concerns you, then," he told
her, and turned away from that slight smile and the kindness it offered.
"Perhaps not." She didn't sound offended.
What does it take to get rid of that woman?
"But perhaps you would feel better if you told me?"
He sneered. "I doubt it."
"Care to try?"
The offer sounded sincere, and it hung in the air for a while.
She shrugged; something he heard and felt in the air more than
For a while, there was merciful, soothing silence, apart from
the clattering of the rain and the rumbling of thunder, but those things
seemed far off now; not important enough to notice.
He mourned the loss. His 'life', in the end, meant nothing.
He had always known, of course... but he rarely felt it like this. Even standing
here, surrounded by things that made him feel truly alive, he felt...
He didn't know what he felt.
For it is the fate of the True Rune bearers, to live forever
on, while everything they love withers and dies...
Had he been alone, he would have screamed out his rage to the
storm, but he was not alone, so he let it flow out slowly. Tears. He hadn't
cried for a long time, but he found it strangely easy... perhaps... it was
not so bad after all... crying was something he had feared, but the rain
kissed his tears away now...
He felt a hand on his shoulder.
He ignored it. She insisted.
"What?!" he forced out.
"You are shivering. Come, let us go inside. I have some mulled
wine, and I'm sure there's enough for the both of us."
"...no... I'm staying." His voice, to his relief, was steady.
Still the hand on his shoulder remained. "If you want. But
I am staying here with you, then."
He didn't answer. The wind, long free from his tentative grasp,
tore at them, yet neither moved.
"It doesn't get better this way, you know."
He spun around, slipping his shoulder out of her grasp. "What
do you know? What do you know about anything?"
Grey, blue-shimmering eyes met brown for a moment.
"No... I do not know anything about you... or your past...
or why you come here every time a storm blows to cry in the rain... but Luc...
for this, do I really have to understand?"
He broke eye contact and looked down, to the ground; didn't
"If you let me know what you're running from, maybe I can help."
"I'm not running!" He turned back and stared at her defiantly.
"I'm never running again! Never!"
A thunderclap punctuated his last word. Then silence again.
He wasn't running. He had confronted Sasarai. He was terrified,
but he wasn't going to run.
He'd rather die.
Her hand on his shoulder again. Curse her! Couldn't she ever
leave him alone?
"You don't need to tell me if you don't want to." A finger
lightly brushed some hair out of his face. "But right now, you need to come
inside before you catch a cold. We need you, Luc. We depend on your strength."
How could so few words warm so much, and hurt so much at the
same time? He drew a deep breath.
Numbly, he let her lead him down the stairs. The hatch slammed
shut behind them. The lone guard saluted them nervously as they passed, but
Luc hardly noticed. Nor did he notice as they walked down long, dark and
empty corridors, past a few other sentries, until they finally reached the
eastern wing of the castle. A door, one like many others in the corridor,
opened under a light touch, and he found himself standing in a sparsely furnished
room. The room was dominated by a table and three chairs standing in the
centre, on a small, pale blue carpet; there was also a cupboard in the closest
left corner, a small desk under the window in the middle of the wall opposite
the door, a small stove in the far right corner, and a bed behind a screen
in the far left corner. Somehow he had expected more, but all that hinted
that the room was inhabited was a small pot on the stove, a light grey cloak
slung over the back of one of the chairs around the table, and a round,
fist-sized crystal on the cupboard; a slight blue-white crackling of energy
in its heart. She vanished behind the screen for a moment, and returned with
a dry cloak around her shoulders, and a blanket from the bed, which she wrapped
around his shoulders before leading him to a chair. He followed her lead
and sat down silently. There was a slight scent of perfume in the blanket,
but not strong enough to be unpleasant. He didn't even complain as she took
a small, flimsy towel and wiped his cheeks and slicked his hair back so it
wouldn't fall over his eyes. He watched her stir whatever was in the pot
with a wooden spoon, then produce two slender wineglasses from the cupboard
and fill them to the brim with sparkling red wine. She handed him one, and
he took it, sipping carefully. It was sweet, rich with spices, and warmed
pleasantly. He hadn't realised how cold he was. He was dimly aware of how
she took a seat opposite him, leaned her elbows on the table and her chin
in her hands. He concentrated on warming his own hands on the glass, and
sipping the warm wine.
He looked up. She was leaning her head in one hand now, and
slowly turning her glass with the other; the glass moving against wood making
a soft sound that barely managed to penetrate the sound of the rain outside.
"If you do not want to speak of the past, it is your decision.
I was wrong to pry into your feelings."
He shook his head slightly. "'t's... no bother."
She smiled. "I'm glad." More silence. Comfortable silence.
Then she took her glass and held it out. "Friends?"
Finally, he smiled. As the spry sound of glass against glass
tinkled through the room and he repeated her last word silently, confirming,
he found a new, strange thought entering his mind.
Yes... maybe... I have finally found...