Cross limped over to the altar, breathing heavily. He sat down, wincing at the pain in his chest as he did, and looked over at his beloved. Asty. She was asleep now. It wasnt a natural sleep, though. Looking at how pale she was, Cross couldnt help but feel a little frightened. She had lost so much blood. Cross hadnt had many kartia left after the initial battle with the phantoms, and had summarily used every bit of their world tree and mithril-made kartia to stem the bleeding he had almost been too late noticing.
Shed been in so much pain, but the sleep shed fallen into around 12 hours ago was hardly a blessing. Cross feared she would die, still asleep. Her face was the picture of despair, and had been since Misty, her sister, had defeated them yesterday afternoon. Her and her friends had gone on to battle Cross former masters. He had abandoned them, now. Asty was dying, he knew. The thought struck him like a physical blow, and he closed his eyes in pain.
Of course, he was going with her. He was certain of it. The pain in his chest wasnt just a few cracked ribs. He had coughed up some blood. One of those broken ribs had managed to pierce a lung, ever so slightly. Cross could have healed it, but he had used all of the kartia that made such a healing possible on Asty. He didnt care. Hed have done it again, given the choice. He only prayed that she would awaken before he slipped away. He had to tell her. He had to know. If only he could know that one simple thing, he could die happily.
Please wake up, Asty. He said, quietly but desperately. His face was haggard, sagging. It was a complete removal from how he normally was, both in tone of voice and appearance. Normally, Cross was a complete smart-aleck, with a smirk perpetually etched on his face. This had completely changed him.
Asty, you cant die. You have so much you can still do! Youre so young We can heal your sickness. That was the second thing. Asty had a disease that could not be healed by any kartia. It was slowly eating her from the inside out. But, it was moving slowly, and that was the thing. Cross had been investigating a cure. He thought he had found a strong possibility, in the southlands. If only Misty and her friends hadnt come along. They could have won the war without a problem.
And San that cursed half-elf. Cross knew that this was his fault. They had never intended for Eden to fall upon the world. Never. The thousands of people that had died It hurt Cross. That surprised the young man, for he rarely let himself feel others pain. He had always concentrated solely on himself.
That had all changed, slowly but surely, as he grew to know Asty. She could be gruff at times, but she had a good heart, Cross knew. Her order to kill Misty Cross understood it. She had always been put second, in Vanders eyes, in everyones. If it wasnt Misty given that elite status, then it was someone else. Usually, though, it was Misty. Vander had clearly favored the older sister, and had made it obvious through his actions. Always, it was Misty given the responsibilities. Always, it was Misty who gained the rewards.
Cross winced again at the thought. Again, the woman had bested her sister. Something had been different this time, though. Misty hadnt wanted to fight, Cross could tell. She bore her sister no ill will. But none of that mattered. Cross wanted Asty to be the best, no matter what that was in. That was why he had stayed with her when the others had gone. They offered to take them along, but Asty had refused. Asty knew she was dying. She wouldnt let her sister best her again by saving her life. Cross, though he feared death, though he feared it with all of his soul, had opted to stay with her.
Through that, he let her know she was first in someones eyes, at least. If she ever woke up, Cross would tell her how true that was.
Reaching out his hand, which was cut and dirty from the many battles he had fought with the Phantoms over the past day, he gently stroked Astys beautiful blue hair. He looked on her face, so pale now, and shed a few tears. There had been so much he wanted to tell her. So much he had wanted to ask. If only things had gone as Vander had wished! Eden would float in the sky, a tribute to the kingdom of peace that the man would have created.
The nations of Rebus were corrupt. Cross knew that, as did any member of Vanders army. The Shrine Warriors, the Inquisitors all monuments to a stifled society, monuments to a world where free thought was prohibited. According to them, there was but one god, their god. Cross did not believe in that god, that god that gave these warriors the power to kill men, women, even children, in the name of their crusade against the heretics. Lord Vander did not either. He had once been one of those warriors. He hid that fact, but many knew it to be truth. He had realized the evil in their actions when it came down to the terrible choice of saving a loved one and upholding his religion.
Asty and Misty had, in fact, been the result of those horrible warriors. The Shrine Warriors had struck down their parents for investigating the origin of Phantoms, struck down as heretics to the religion. Cross hated them with all of his will, for what they had done to Asty. They had made her so cold to the world, so cold to everyone even her own sister.
Cross looked at her face, that face that had visited his dreams so many times, and wept. As he did, he failed to notice her eyelids flutter, failed to notice them open, with pain reflected in them.
Cro-Cross? she said, sounding bewildered. Cross immediately wiped the tears from his eyes, and looked back at Asty, determined to keep his cool. If Asty rejected him now he would die in despair.
Youre awake. He said simply, trying to keep from sounding too overjoyed. He was so frightened, so frightened of what he knew he had to say. He coughed then, and fresh blood on his lips reminded him that he would not be given an eternity to build up his confidence.
Youre still here, Cross? I had thought youd have left already, to find the army. Why are you still here with me? Asty asked, seeming genuinely surprised to find that Cross had not abandoned her.
I told you, Asty. Were partners. I wont just leave you here. Cross said, trying to sound casual about it.
No. You know Im dying, dont you? I can feel it within me. I know it. You know it too, I can tell. Were partners isnt a reason for you to die here. Asty said. Her almost-anger hurt Cross deeply.
Dont be mad, Asty. I Its not just that. Cross stuttered, amazed at how unsure he was. He had always been so confident in himself before.
Im not mad, Cross. No. But you shouldnt die here. You could still make it. How long have we been here?
I cant leave you here, Asty. Besides, Im too late. Weve been here over a day. The armys long gone. Astys eyes narrowed.
Are you a fool? she said angrily, ignoring the pain that seemed apparent in her voice. Why did you stay here? You could have gotten back to the main group! Cross lowered his head.
I know that. But but I I couldnt just leave you here. I couldnt.
"And why not? Asty said, puzzled at the mans reluctance to speak. She had never seen him like this before.
Asty I I I think I I mean, I know Im Cross stuttered for a while longer, then finally fell silent. Asty pulled his chin up with a pale finger and looked directly into his eyes.
What are you trying to say, Cross? Just tell me. She held his gaze, and when his eyes fell, she tapped him harshly on the chin until he looked back at her.
Asty, Im Im in love with you. As he said it, his gaze fell again. He couldnt bear to see the inevitable horror on her face. He was surprised, then, to find that the hand holding his head up wasnt drawn back, but was instead pushed forward until she had her arm around him.
You youre serious, Cross? Asty said. Cross nodded, still frightened to look up, despite the presence of her arm around his shoulders.
Cross you have no idea how long Ive wanted you to say that. Astys breathing was getting heavier now, and Cross did notice, but what she said drew his attention more than that ever could have. He finally looked back up at her, looked deep into her joy and love-filled eyes, and put his arms around her, slowly. They drew close to each other, and embraced. Cross closed his eyes, and waited for the inevitable.
Death was welcome, now. And soon enough, it took them both, as they sat and watched a final sunset come down over Eden. It did not matter to them. They were ready for that afterlife, ready for that ending. They were finally together, had finally found each other. They were completed.