Chapter Two: Foundations
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Record Keeper’s Note
Worlds aren’t all that different from each other. Some are very tribal with little ‘development’; some are very ‘industrial’, saturated in science; some have magic; some are aware of other worlds. In some worlds, people look like you and I. There are worlds where people have wings, and tails, worlds where ‘people’ isn’t limited to ‘humans’, and where ‘humans’ can mix with people that are not humans. No matter the differences, each world always has two similarities: people, and language.
Since worlds were made, phasers have traversed between all planets –mixing people who were completely different, yet absolutely the same. The Great Languages used today were born from this, spreading to every planet they touched, understood anywhere. Forsythia mostly uses Common, but as Common itself has adopted many words and is not the only language spoken on Forsythia, I have provided occasional in-text translations along with details in the back.
One of the Great Languages is Cerain, the language of magic. Magic is not dependent on words, it is cast through the desires of the caster –vocal or not. Words clarify desires and instigate feelings, thus words have power. Any word can work if it evokes the desired image, but specific words are known to evoke an image. Everyone has felt it at one time or another, using or reading a word that describes an image perfectly; Cerain is the compilation of those distinct words.
Record Keeper of The Eternal Realms
Chapter Two: Foundations
Leaving Kiyā in the pond, Aly heads to the school’s third floor. She enters the clubroom, looking for Jezabellah’s feet hanging over the couch, but Jez isn’t there. Taiyouko leans against the far wall with his arm above his head as he stares out the window, focused on Kiyā who should have gotten out of the pond by now. He hides the concern etched into his face before he turns to Aly; straightening, he leans back against the wall nonchalantly, his shirt has an excessive number of undone buttons and his tie is looser than ever. If the female staff had seen this, they would likely have been unable to resist themselves. A loose smile forms as he meets Aly’s eyes. “Aly-chan, I’m the one you’re supposed to be pushing into ponds,” he teases, Aly’s reactions consisting of one third of his life force.
With an indiscriminate glare of one used to his childish nonsense, Aly steps forward and takes the pitcher from Kiyā’s desk. With a snap of her fingers and a flick of her wrist, she points a forefinger down in an obvious command. With a devious grin, Taiyouko obeys, kneeling before her… and she gives him drink. As she dumps the pitcher on him, a lock of hair hanging free from his short ponytail carries a stream of water into his mouth.
“Thanks for the drink, how did you know I was thirsty?” his lips twitch in a half smile.
“I could just tell you were dying for it,” she replies, setting the pitcher to be refilled and walking away.
A soft smirk crosses Taiyouko’s face. “Jez is on the roof,” he comments, tidying his appearance to leave, which translates to mostly buttoning his soaking shirt, making him possibly even more appealing –but he won’t run into anyone, in accordance to his desire.
Aly nods her head and exits the room. The layout of the third floor is quite different from the other two. A single hall runs the length of the back wall of the school, opening into several perpendicular short halls lined with rooms on both sides. If you’re inside facing the front of the building, the Sannin clubroom is to the right, the last room on the right of the second to last hall.
Aly walks the length of the school to reach the stairs to the roof at the far end; Taiyouko does the opposite, walking past the last hall of classrooms to take the stairs down.
Taiyouko approaches the school doors; Kiyā approaching at the same time. He hastens his stride to open the door first. Struggling with himself, he lets the door close behind him; he can feel Kiyā is ready to begin –it exhilarates him. But the circumstances have taken her from his side and that frustrates him on a number of accounts. He pulls Kiyā into a fierce hug, lifting her off her feet. Returned to the ground, she stands on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. She leaves him with a reassuring smile.
Taiyouko stares across the stone circle at the forsythia arch, waiting until Kiyā is deep enough within the building to not notice; he turns and punches the stone wall. His movement is smooth, practiced, with the force to shatter a life… or in this case, his hand. He exhales deeply; slowly, a knowing grin covers his face. “Whatever you have planned, you can’t beat her. No one can.” The one he speaks to has no way to hear him, but saying the words alone is enough.
Descending the steps before him, he walks towards the school gates, the past from before Earth dancing around him in every step –as if mocking the present and summoning the future. Kiyā’s father, Yurishiame Evhenost, or Shiame, is the leader of the Ryoko-sha –the group fighting the Miento; his wife is Toren Rhemst. Ashyra Evhenost, his younger sister, married Shyric Karbecka, and is the mother of Taiyouko, Aly and Jezabellah. They, along with two children orphaned in the chaos of war, dance in the images.
Hatar was the first baby I can remember seeing, toddler myself that I was; Iyasu and I always played together, we definitely caused Kaa-chan –mother- and Toren-ba –aunt Toren- a pile of trouble. Shiame-ji –uncle Shiame- and Dad were gone so often –Shiame was still a Bewaker then. Even without memory magic, I still remember clearly the break during the year we turned three, when Shiame-ji became Shiame-sensei. It is a moment I will never forget –the moment I really fell in love with magic. And while the workings of magic unfolded around us, a war we did not understand unfolded before us. Taiyouko reaches the school gates and turns to the left, walking alongside the stone wall.
Hatar joined our magic studies –following us unceasingly, investigating everything, growing solely to satisfy his curiosity. It always amused me that a fey was immersed in magic he would never be able to cast. I didn’t realize back then what a weapon he would become.
Shiame and Toren finally had a child the year Iyasu and I turned six and Hatar four; Aly and Jez came just a few months after –all three of them so much smaller than I remember Hatar being.
The fistfights that started over whose turn it was to hold the babies; the stories from before the time Shiame heard the Bewaker’s call; Suya and Amer stopping by to play, always teaching us new things; the child hierarchy where Hatar was a big kid some days and a little kid others; that moment Iyasu thought he would marry Kiyā when he grew up… and the fights that never ended when I couldn’t beat the idea out of him. Taiyouko reaches the corner of the wall and turns left again, the force of his steps increasing as he continues following it.
Then there was the year of the sign; when Kiyā became a Bewaker… and Sensei stopped being one. Because of the commotion, the girls started magic lessons early, and life seemed to continue more or less fine. For the next four years. A grimness seeps into Taiyouko’s face as he recalls Toren’s sobs and Shiame, the unbreakable Shiame, locking himself in his room. Suya cursed up a storm and Taiyouko lost count of the things she broke. It was Amer who took the confused children in his arms, holding back his grief as best he could to tell them Ashyra and Shyric had vanished without a trace while scouting.
Sensei decided to entrust us to Sarabeth while he and Toren immersed themselves in the war. Was it for safety, or to have a piece of them with us, that we each took one of their names? As Mom and Sensei shared a name, I followed that obsolete tradition where a student takes his master’s name as his surname –that it would be known what line their knowledge came from. And Kiyā set aside her birth name, Jasine. She was starting to figure out her Purpose in this war –we all were. That we were here to End it.
Taiyouko reaches the corner of the wall and ignores it, following a little stone path to a lovely cottage situated directly behind the school. He walks inside with a complicated expression. I wish Iyasu made it… but, I’m glad Syl is here.
“Now that doesn’t look good,” Sylver comments from where he examines an unusual chessboard at the kitchen table; he’s conspicuously tense for someone whiling away his boredom while waiting for his family.
Taiyouko looks up at his roommate and adopted brother, opening his mouth, but no words come out, so he closes it again.
“With your magic, couldn’t you have just simulated punching a wall, felt the pain, cooled your head, and not injured your hand?” Syl inquires somewhat lazily.
“I could, but I wanted it to break,” Taiyouko responds tartly.
“You really are a hopeless brother aren’t you,” Syl remarks, ambling over to him. “Breaking your hand just because Kiyā left with another man.”
Taiyouko looks over, startled. “How did you know? It only just–” Syl interrupts with a casual gesture to the chessboard with far too many pieces and squares.
“Just now the Left Black Knight threatened the White Queen, she moved across the board, taking the Knight with her. I have to say, I really love magic, because queens can’t move like that on regular boards.” Syl grabs Taiyouko’s head and pulls it against his shoulder –standing about even height with him. “If a big brother’s gonna cry, he’s gotta do it while his little sisters can’t see, you better hurry up or they’ll get home.”
Aly walks up the stairs to the roof, thinking of the identity of the snake troubling her, but everything slows the moment she opens the door. Nothing has happened yet. Time-wise, Taiyouko –who moved down the stairs to the front door much faster than Aly walked down the hall to the roof- is staring at Kiyā through the doors. Aly is sensing the future –because it is no longer avoidable. By the time Kiyā got out of the pond, the future that was uncertain, became determined. Her actions, and Kyo’s actions, making it the present.
The minutes pass while Aly stands in the doorway; Jezabellah lying on the cement before her, absorbing the heat from both the sun-soaked roof and the warm breeze. As Kyo phases to the window ledge behind Kiyā, Aly pulls herself together, stepping into the winter leaves still covering large portions of the roof. “Jez get up,” she orders, already turning back towards the door, sensing the Tainted presence; the air holds a slightly sour taste, Nature herself crying the warning.
Jezabellah sits up, instantly obeying Aly’s tone; locating the Taint, she springs to her feet, dashing for the door. The just-recently-gentle wind responds to their heightening feelings; as Aly is one step from the door, Jezah trips over her own bag amidst the leaves and the wind roars –scattering every leaf accumulated on the roof, keeping the two girls in a momentary blizzard. The undefined amount of time of a moment. While the leaves swirl, Jez pulls herself into a sprinter’s crouch; Aly glares silently at the being she can’t see. As the leaves are swept off the roof, Jez begins her spring; Aly already gone.
If one had witnessed what happened, they may have come up with several possible explanations for the stunning dash –but there are no witnesses in the quiet high school. One after another, the two girls fling themselves from the top of the stairwell. Aly’s jump lasts for half the flight; she stumbles as she lands in the middle, falling forward. Accepting fate, she puts her hands before her, planting them on a lower step. Riding the momentum, she brings her feet off the stairs, her own weight bending her arms into position to capitalize the force at the critical moment. Shoving off from the stairs, she glides backwards to the corner where stairs meet main hall. Aly lands on the handrails, but the force of her momentum has not yet stopped, bring her into a crouch. Exploiting this, she launches off and rolls into the hall, coming up already running.
Jezah’s dash-start gives her the force to clear the stairwell; utilizing the miniscule path created the moment Aly stumbles forward, she passes over her in the impossible window before Aly’s feet enter the air. She kicks off the same wall Aly will, rolling into the hall with Aly no less behind.
They pass four short halls to reach their own; sparing no speed for the corner, they jump into the opening –running along the wall for a handful of seconds. Slightly in the lead, Aly flies past the door separating them from Kiyā, ricocheting her largely uncontrollable speed from the now dented wall, her outstretched fingers seek the handle. The door jerks inward, pulled open in the instant her fingers should have closed around it; so close she feels the lightest touch as it pulls away.
With her body spread out horizontally, Aly must adjust her plan; she throws a hand down, turning her leap into a flip. She lands on the floor in a crouch, her eyes scanning everything despite knowing Kiyā is gone. For the split second before she is crushed.
Instead of following Aly’s path, Jez chose to make up some time by jumping to the wall directly across from the door… making Aly her landing spot. The pair of feet crashing into Aly’s back consequently compresses her stomach against her thighs and sends her sprawling over the floor –offering her stolen breath to the wind raging about the room- while Jezah daintily flips onto the couch after springboarding off her sister.
Vision shaking and ears ringing, Aly’s fingers twitch. The atrocious wind throws a blizzard of papers about the room, hardly dropping a piece before pulling it back to fling again –the room throwing a tantrum because its occupant was stolen.
Jezah timidly steps over to Aly, guiltily glancing at the conspicuous puddle of liquid she forced from Aly’s stomach, “Does this double my tab?”
Aly struggles to her feet, offering Jez, not a freezeglare, but a deathglare.
Jezah sighs piteously, “I hate when it’s exponential.” Taking another glance around the room, she forays to another subject, “Well, based on the Taint and Kiyā’s lack of resistance, it should have been Kyo just now.”
“Should have been Kyo. Should have. What if it was another random being covered in concentrated Taint? What if it actually had nothing to do with Forsythia and Bewakers but was an Outside attack that somehow slipped through our protections? You know what kind of prey she is in a shell,” Aly’s tone would have shriveled another person, her aura casting an inferno dome, rebuffing even Jez; she turns back to the door and leave.
Step. Step. Step. The consistent steps pump the frustration through her, stoking a molten heat from her core –the refiner’s fire, perfecting her anger.
“Oh, Miss Karbecka, can I do something for you?” a voice meanders into Aly’s refining, disrupting the beat created by the echoing steps. Turning her head, she finds a distasteful man before her: the vice-principal, whom Jez nicknamed ‘The Vice’. The vice-principal had merely stepped out of his office beside the front doors, startled to find the two girls before him, unaware their presence is a coincidence which would have been avoided with a single additional step.
“No.” Aly’s clear word cuts through the hollow air, shearing a path of cold disrespect to walk out on. But The Vice doesn’t let them go so easily.
The Vice has always had an exasperated relationship with the otherworldly four. While Aly and Jezabellah would naturally come to earn some resentment from him, it was really Taiyouko’s fault. When Taiyouko was a student, he openly walked out of class –in direct defiance of The Vice- to check on his ‘little sisters’, and the motherly principal let him off. Taiyouko’s attitude, lacking in all respect, built up the foundation for The Vice’s grudge.
The Vice is not particularly unreasonable, nor bearing undue resentment, Aly and Jezah’s bad habits are simply magnified atop Taiyouko’s insolence. Aly’s demeaning glance and attitude bring a curt distaste to any and all interactions. Jez frequently skips class to meander about the school, often sitting in on other classes briefly to say hello or make a comment and resume her wandering… yet maintains her grades, thus the Principal allows it. The few times The Vice ordered Jezabellah back to class, she quite willingly went… for five or so minutes before deciding to roam on to another part of school grounds. As for Kiyā, The Vice actually respects her; he finds her presence soothing in the face of the other three, constantly reminding himself that they are only related through adoption.
The Vice stares at the girls walking out on Aly’s ‘No’. “Just the two of you? I haven’t seen Kiyā leave yet, is she still hard at work while you slack off?” Aly’s steps falter. “That girl works harder than any other student, the least you could do is properly support her –”Aly turns faster than The Vice believes humanly possible, grabs him by his shirt and shoves him into the wall.
“Damare,” Shut up, she speaks softly in the Great Language often called Japanese, her voice deadly quiet, her usual icy eyes a boiling sea, and her hands conducting that heat. Yet her anger has little to do with the man before her. “I don’t have the mental capacity to deal with ignorant trash today,” she hisses, releasing the vice-principal, who steps back into his office in a frightened daze.
It takes several minutes for him to calm himself enough to make it to his washstand to rinse his face of the strange sense of heat her eyes produced. Some-thing unbelievably frightening greets him in the mirror: hand-shaped scorch marks on his white shirt. Clearly imprinted in his mind is the boiling heat in her eyes, causing them to literally glow, as if a fire lay behind them. Had he looked any longer he is certain he would have been drawn into a purifying bath.
He gingerly touches the scorch marks, trying to explain them. “Residual chemicals from the lab… that could discolor cloth… a reaction to heat or water, such as sweat…” he looks at the very clear, dark shapes, places a wet washcloth over his eyes and slumps into his chair to rest.
Ignoring the front entrance, Aly and Jez take the Main Hall to the back doors, opting to hop the picket fence serving as a back wall. At the cottage door, Aly reaches for the handle –but never touches it. She blinks, staring at her once again empty hand. The culprit, Taiyouko, stands in the doorway with the intent to hug. As he pulls her close, she slides her foot behind his and shoves her weight into his chest; they crash to the floor, Aly sitting on Taiyouko, his shirt balled up in her tightly clenched hands.
“Why are you waiting nonchalantly at home while I am breaking through walls at school?”
Taiyouko smiles at her gently, “I didn’t expect to be rewarded with a wrestling match. I do so hate to upset you, but, the way you play with me after- wards is so much fun, maybe I should try harder–”
“Okaerinasai, Aly-chan, Jezah-tan,” Welcome home, Syl interjects before Taiyouko can invite serious injury, calling Jezah with the cutesier ‘tan’ suffix. “I wanna play too,” he grins wickedly, sitting backwards on a chair with his arms folded over the top.
Jez prances over her siblings, to hug Syl, “Don’t worry Syl, I will definitely bring you to play with us when our work is done,” Jezah’s wide, slightly idiotic grin draws Syl’s hands to her cheeks.
“When you make that face I can’t help myself, I just need to pinch it.” He pulls on her face with great concentration.
She laughs, but is distracted by something in her peripheral. “Twaiyo-nii, wha ‘appen’d oo ur ‘and?” she asks, Syl messing up her pronunciation.
Looking over, Syl notices the starting formation of deep, discolored bruises peeking out from Aly’s collar. “Wait, was there a fight?!” he asks, slightly mortified with his earlier humor.
As Taiyouko scans over Aly, looking for the cause of Syl’s concern, Aly looks down at Taiyouko’s shattered right hand and slaps him. “Heal yourself already idiot!”
Taiyouko sits up with a flash, knocking Aly back slightly; he catches her with his left arm and leans forward to give the bruises a healing kiss. Healing his own hand as an afterthought.
Flushing, Aly pounds her fists against him as would a small child. “I was going to heal it myself! You never heal normally!”
Taiyouko laughs, letting her beat him up; chortling beside them, Syl looks Jez up and down, “I wish I could do that,” he says enviously. “You’re not injured, are you?”
“My heart has a grievous injury.”
Playing along, Syl places a hand on her chest in concern, “Your heart?”
“Yes, today, my tab went up exponentially,” she explains morosely.
Syl looks back and forth between Aly and Jez, “What did you do this time?” Seeing the deathglare Aly resumes shooting Jezabellah, a vague understanding blooms. “Jezah, those bruises–”
“It was an accident! I never meant to use Onee-san as a springboard! Not in any dream– well, wait…there was that time and…” Jezah begins to take a mental count.
Aly walks over to the chessboard to relieve her fears, and Syl, feeling sorry for his piteous Jezabellah, resumes playing with her face.
“I’ll send Ryar a message tonight; we leave tomorrow after school.” Tai-youko placates, possessed by the same driving need to move as Aly.
“It’s a bit early, but I’ll take over the Cultural Division for you; Nightly-sensei will take care of me,” Syl mutters lazily, referring to the P.E. teacher Zack Nightly, “but will you guys be fine with The League? An unregistered phase will definitely catch their attention.”
“They don’t have the time to look into a five minute phase to and from a non-hostile planet, even if Earth is ignorant of magic,” Taiyouko replies.
Syl’s worries evaporate. “Jezabellah this is highly addictive.”
‘The League’ or the ‘ILLS’ refers to the Interplanetary League of Libraries and Scholars. Initially it was no more than a gathering place for scholars sharing their passions. Time and necessity evolved them; today The League’s functions include monitoring interplanetary relationships, commerce and travel, and offering travel assistance. They have a great history, and many responsibilities, none of which are remotely related to the incidents I am telling you about.
As Earth is often in an ‘Ignorant State’, phasing is monitored strictly; however formal procedures include paperwork trails, people going into hiding generally avoid leaving trails… Thus Kiyā-tachi –Kiyā and her group- traveled to Earth illegally, without reaching Phase Point to leave a trail for The League. Beings cannot change their frequency without reaching Phase Point, however land can.
Scattered throughout the worlds are various locations linked to specific others; these are natural phase fields. When living things with azeshio in their blood pass through these fields, the frequency of the land changes from its own to one very similar. Natural fields can only be discovered when someone actually walks through them; there is no way to detect their location or when they are in use. While there are maps of discovered fields, many more are unknown. The forsythia arch in front of Gakuen Academy is a natural field to the Aratona Forest on Forsythia; currently it is only known to Shiame and his Ryoko-sha.
Sylver’s introduction to Gakuen Academy was, just a bit, magically successful; he was already lined up to replace Taiyouko with the new school year, so a simple explanation and a small bit of magic to quiet curiosity was all the motherly principal took. The Cultural Division was thrilled to meet him, whispers of the unveiling of the ‘fifth member’ and ‘Dexter’s true identity’ flying everywhere. Contrary to Syl’s expectations, the sudden announcement did not bring the students’ despair, but sent them into excited wondering over the true reason behind the change, particularly with Kiyā’s obvious absence. In the end, they were sure to make hundreds of rumors about his best friends, refusing to con-firm any of them in order to believe all of them. The Main Division students on the other hand, were much more subdued upon formally meeting ‘Dexter’ –the Main Division boys.
Conquering The Vice takes a touch more. Entering his office, Taiyouko takes one large stride and covers the vice-principal’s eyes, altering his memories. After depositing the unconscious Vice in his chair, Taiyouko pulls the burned shirt from a desk drawer.
“You know how cool that is right?” Syl comments lazily from the side, “Finding where he put the shirt from his memories.”
Taiyouko places his much larger hands over the marks of Aly’s, restoring the fabric. He hangs the shirt on an empty hanger. “Alright, we can go.”
“Hey, wait up; aren’t you going to introduce me? And what’s The Vice gonna think when he finds himself asleep in his chair?” Syl asks, pouting just a bit.
Taiyouko rolls his eyes, “What introduction, he hates you just as much as me. If you remember, you were the student casually walking beside me as we left class to check on our little sisters.”
“But I’m a new man, Sylver-sensei has a completely different feel to it.” Syl pouts more openly.
Taiyouko smirks, “Then don’t worry; according to The Vice’s memories, I did just introduce you, after we left, he sat down for a quick nap, stressed by who will replace me. He will wake up rejuvenated, but I am sure you will fulfill his worries perfectly.”
“Taiyouko,” Syl pauses momentarily for impact, “I believe you are what would be called an unrepentant liar.”
To which Taiyouko nods gravely and offers, “I could do the same for you.”
A grin crosses Sylver’s face, “I’ll pass. The one time you changed my mem-ories was more than enough for me.”
Taiyouko shrugs, grinning shamelessly, “I properly put them back.”
“After Mother told you to,” Syl hits Taiyouko on the back of the head as they exit.
“You should be grateful, that was how you ended up joining the family…”
Aly swiftly preps the next morning’s lab for the last time: a flame test lab, showing the colors created by burning different elements. The door to the chemistry lab bursts open. Aly ignores the intruder, the junior barely registering on her mind. The girl suffers a critical hesitation –proof of her uncertainty- she clenches her fists and loudly declares her presence.
“How dare you seduce Keldon! Keldon was really close to me before you wrote that note to him!” The infuriated girl breathes heavily, waiting for the senior’s retaliation, or, possibly, her submission –the girl has been working on this confrontation for days now, ever since hearing Keldon planned to confess. Unfortunately for this oblivious junior, her words are met by Aly’s unchanging expression; not even turning to acknowledge her.
“Keldon…” Aly murmurs, scanning her mental database; among the tags to pop up, two stick out. The second, in regards to the note: a simple explanation of a chemistry problem written on the side of his homework. The first tag is labeled: dignified pillars. “Ah, the boy from yesterday; that’s right, the pillars were quite dignified yesterday…” Aly returns to her thoughts, satisfied after recalling the information.
The accuser is momentarily speechless, this encounter not falling under the scope of any of her scenarios; with some fumbling, she forces her feelings out. “You! You conceited witch! All those guys like you so much, and you don’t care about any of them! You should just burn like a witch! Burn for all eternity! Burn until even your ashes are ashes!”
“Burn eternally… and if I were to tell you I already am?” Aly asks the girl, glancing over to her for the first time, extending a hand erupting in flames the fierce deep blue of the oldest, most pristine glacial ice.
The girl screams and runs towards Aly; grabbing the short hose of the nearest sink and directing it full blast at the flames, she soaks Aly, who briefly reflects on the aftereffects of teasing her. Briefly. Unfortunately for the junior, Aly’s fire cannot be put out with mere water; the flame’s dance is not affected in the least, as if already shrouded in it. The screaming girl dashes to the door and grabs the fire extinguisher, but when she turns around, Aly’s fire is gone.
As the girl shakes with a light bout of hysteria, Aly coolly asks, “Please tell me why, when I am involved in matters of a much greater significance than you could even comprehend, I need to also care about people who bombard me as if we were the closest of friends when we are strangers. Tell me how I am at fault, when against my wishes they seek me out, followed by the people who actually care about them. If you are so angry, and are so close to him, then why don’t you seek him out and tell him. Stop cluttering my life with your relationships.”
The girl clutches the fire extinguisher, still shaking slightly, it having never occurred to her that it would be more proactive to tell Keldon how much she cared for him. She had been too worried about his response and so had despised the one he was looking at, but really, as she thought about it, it made no sense at all. The girl bows her head in a wordless apology, replaces the fire extinguisher and leaves.
Aly walks over to the door to confirm there are no other unexpected visitors, before directing all the misplaced water into a sink with the wave of a hand. Steam issues from her wet clothes –the water evaporating- flicking an eye over the prepped trays, she confirms not a drop of the girl’s spray disturbed her work.
“You really are having an off-day,” Taiyouko comments from the doorway. Aly is unsure if he used his long legs to reach the door so quickly, or if he had intentionally been hiding. “Yesterday with the shirt, today with the fire and the water.” He strides into the room, picks Aly up with one arm and strides out.
“I can walk by myself,” she objects.
“I know. I can carry you by myself too,” he happily responds. Aly rolls her eyes once and gives up, leaning against her brother for a rare, unguarded moment.
The clubroom door opens invitingly as Taiyouko approaches; Jezabellah waits for them, sprawled leisurely on the couch, enjoying just being there. The door closes behind Taiyouko.
“I vas avaiting you,” Jezabellah pulls out an accent.
Slightly embarrassed to be seen being carried, Aly jumps down; turning her attention fully to the room. She relives the memories built slowly over the last four years –memories belonging to this room. A room beloved by the four … and the four beloved by this room.
“Take care of the next people to stay here; Kiyā chose them,” Aly whispers, not one for partings.
“Thank you for always caring for us, we will see you again,” Taiyouko runs his hand over a desk.
“Tanomu,” I’m counting on you, Jezabellah pats her beloved couch.
The door opens by itself. “Itterashai,” take care, the voice resounds in their minds, holding them in place for a moment.
“Aa,” yes, “ittekimasu,” Taiyouko gently responds.
“Ittekimasu,” Aly answers, eyes watering.
“Ittekimasu,” Jezah murmurs, closing her eyes.
We’re off. They leave the room with the traditional farewell, nothing left unsaid. Taiyouko, Aly, and Jezabellah walk out of the well-known door, down the familiar halls and stairs, out of the constant front doors, and step into the forsythia arch, into the other world.
Hatar Yurishiame, formerly Hatar Silkweaver, enters the Imalar Palace from the second story, Ryar beside him. They move forward together in their mottled green silk clothes, to wait on the platform to the central staircase.
The Imalar Palace is the Western Point, one of the Nine Points: the for-tresses that protect against the Tanigh. The Palace is magically formed within the trees of the Aratona Forest –immensely strong, tall and wide from their azeshio attributes- the living wood is carefully redirected to allow the open-ings within. Several trees are elegantly connected to form the whole Palace, the intersecting branches creating midair pathways. At the core of the Palace’s cen- tral tree is a spiral staircase, offering access to every landing.
Aratona is the combination of the Cerain words for silk, ara –air•ah- and spider, tona –tone•ah. The Aratona Forest is, as its name indicates, the home of the aratona. Aratona are nonaggressive; they are distinct from many other tona in that they are herbivores: their diet consists mainly of fruits, flowers and various herbs. Their bodies average to four feet in diameter with legs six feet long; four of their eight legs are tipped with fine claws for silk weaving. Aratona have a high in- telligence and can work well with humans: leading to the Silk-weaver community.
Aratona have a high concentration of azeshio in their bodies, as most ev- erything on Forsythia does. The azeshio gives no special benefit to the aratona themselves, but is displayed in their silk. Aratona silk is incredibly strong, with a unique weight attribute –the silk does not transfer weight to the object it is anchored upon, but supports the weight itself, allowing the heavy spiders to traverse through the forest on the slim upper branches. Aratona silk is specifically sought after for its resistance to water and fire, as well as its ability to enhance all forms of transparency magic.
Iyasu and Hatar were born in the Aratona Forest, in one of the several Silkweaver villages which used to populate it. The year after Hatar was born, their village vanished, stolen away along with the nearby Imalar Palace –the other seven earthbound Points were taken over the previous two years. The two boys were the only villagers remaining; Shiame immediately took them in. Nine years later, the decision to move the children to Earth came, but Iyasu and Hatar never made it to Sarabeth.
Shiame and Suya –of his Ryoko-sha- walk into the Forest with the six children; Iyasu and Hatar rushing ahead to enter their home. They come to an immediate stop just within the tree line. Hundreds of aratona rest in the trees, patiently waiting. Suya admires the vast number of tona gathered for the two silver haired children, “Always such an extravagant welcome; Silkweavers truly are different,” she comments.
The tona hurry to the forest floor, eager to welcome home their long sepa- rated children. A child tona only two and a half feet in diameter zooms between the others, charging at Hatar. Stopping just before him, he chitters rapidly, examining Hatar with two of his legs, gesturing to himself with another pair, the little tona talks nonstop. Hatar receives him with glee, “Subayai! You’re a half foot bigger than the last time I saw you!”
Kiyā looks at the small tona, her eyelids unable to open any farther, “I-i-it’s–”
“Are you afraid Jasi-Kiyā?” Suya asks in concern, placing a hand on the child. “I was actually really frightened when I first–”
“ADORABLE!” she charges over to Subayai, gently brushing tufts of silver fur on his head. “You are just like your name, swift. When you grow up, are you going to be the fastest tona in the forest?” Kiyā eagerly begins conversing with the tona, leaving Suya’s face twitching.
“I don’t think she heard you,” Shiame murmurs, suppressing a grin.
“It’s suprising though,” Jezah says from Suya’s feet, “Cuz momma said Suya-kun is a man pretending to be a woman–”
Suya’s twitching worsens, imaging what kind of punishment she would inflict on Ashyra… if she were still here –the twitching stops.
“–Oh, maybe that’s why you were afraid, because guys don’t like cute things, see, it’s super cute.” Jezabellah has her arms full of a baby tona, brilliant teal stripes mark its silver-grey fur.
“You said it wrong again, Jez. Surprise, not suprise.” Aly corrects Jezah as Suya stares, watching the small tona run its legs over Jezabellah’s face, ex-ploring.
“It’s hard to remember,” Jezah complains, giggling as the tona’s soft fur tickles her, causing Aly to sigh.
“But Jez,” Suya asks, “don’t Tai-kun, Iyasu and Hatar all like cute things?”
“So?” Jezah asks back.
“Just think of syrup. I got syrup for a surprise,” Aly instructs.
“Syrup? I get surprise syrup?! I love syrup. Do I get to eat it with bacon?” Jezabellah asks, dissolving in laughter as the tona begins to explore her stomach.
“They are guys and still like cute things,” Suya points out.
“They aren’t guys,” Jezah turns back to Suya, amazed by the simple things she doesn’t understand. “They’re brothers. Brothers are made to like sisters, so of course brothers like cute things.”
Suya peers over to Shiame, who dissolves in laughter. “The relation is undeniable in your blood,” she states flatly.
“Yes, they are my children,” Shiame answers happily.
“Only one of them is yours!” Suya retorts sharply. “Really, you and Toren have always been like that.”
“By the way,” Shiame asks mischievously, “you were trying to correct Jezah’s misconception concerning men liking cute things, but didn’t you indirectly infer you were male by not denying it?”
“Sensei!” Taiyouko’s interruption saves Shiame’s life. Shiame looks over at the boy, even height with him while kneeling.
“Hmm? Let me guess, for Tai-kun to not be in suki-sugi mode right now, you were trying to feel the Forest again. How did you do this time?” Shiame asks with a grin.
“I cannot distinguish them, but I can sense the Forest’s emotions, they’re warm!” Taiyouko is both excited and mildly put out, particularly because Iyasu has an established connection with the Forest from birth –the Forest recognizes its own.
Ruffling his hair, Suya praises, “Tai-kun is amazing, already able to sense this much about a Living Forest.” Taiyouko smiles up at her, fully looking the role of a bashful child; she keeps a glare in her eyes for Shiame: punishment has only been postponed.
“All forests are alive,” Jez interrupts, the little tona gone, she spreads her arms out and begins twirling while staring up into the foliage.
Shiame opens his mouth. “Sure all forests are alive, but not all of them are Living.” Answering before Shiame can speak, Taiyouko takes one of Jezabellah’s hands and twirls her around, his bashful child’s air vanishing as he changes into suki-sugi ‘excessive-love’ mode.
“Ehhh, Onii-chan set-sumei-ku-dasai,” explain please, Jezah breaks the words up, puffing out her cheeks to express her inability to comprehend the difference.
“All forests are alive because the plants and animals within them are alive.” Taiyouko takes Jezabellah’s other hand and the two enter a rather complicated dance. “A Living Forest has its own consciousness, all the plants in the forest are the body, and it protects and speaks to all the animals living in the forest.”
“Ehh, so Iyasu and Hatar are animals?” Jez asks with wide innocent eyes; Taiyouko picks her up at the waist and twirls around in perfect time.
“Iyasu, yes. Hatar, no.” He firmly holds Jezah’s right hand as they both lean away from each other in a majestic sequence.
“Onii-chan knows so much!” Jezah squeals gleefully as she returns to Taiyouko’s arms, hugging him tightly.
“If you paid attention in lessons you’d know too,” Aly mutters off to the side. Taiyouko’s grin vanishes as she kicks his ankle, painfully. “Iyasu is not an animal! Baka Nii!” Stupid brother! Aly leans forward, throwing her fisted hands back slightly, her face a touch pinker than normal and her eyes scrunched closed as she objects.
“Ah, my adorable Aly-chan, look at me with that cute a face and I’ll fix any mistake,” Taiyouko withdraws the taunt and scoops Aly into a hug without letting go of Jezabellah.
“When eccentric parents make eccentric friends, their children take eccentric to an original level,” Suya murmurs, completely defeated by the children before her. “Tai-kun might have some problems later on in life.”
“Kiyā-chan, come join us,” Taiyouko invites, already drowning and will-fully charging into the depths.
“I take it back,” Suya mutters, “that guy will definitely have problems later on in life.”
Shiame grins broadly, “Tai-kun is so devoted, what kinds of problems could he have?”
“The subject of his devotion is the problem!”
“Eh? Kiyā loves Aly and Jezabellah as much as Taiyouko does, I don’t think they’ll have any problems sharing.” Shiame’s innocent answer is met by Suya’s increasingly flat eyes.
“You just wanted Taiyouko to be your son from the beginning,” she accuses.
“Yeah, I have always wanted Taiyouko to be my son, and he will be!” Shiame’s broad, cheerful grin gets even broader.
“Kiyā, is the Forest talking to you too?” Taiyouko asks when Kiyā doesn’t join him; his simple question draws Shiame and Suya’s attention.
“Un,” yes, she quietly answers, “I said hello, and the Forest answered, ‘welcome back, we missed you’. Then I saw lots of things. Daddy was in the Forest talking to a bunch of people with silver hair like Iyasu and Hatar-nii. Then Daddy left and a big light flashed through the Forest, all the people and the pretty palace disappeared. The Forest misses them lots.” Kiyā’s hand instinctually wanders to her head.
It takes a moment for the adults to overcome their surprise at Kiyā not only communicating with the Forest, but seeing nearly a decade ago –but nothing about Kiyā has ever been normal, so they can accept it. Time-Sight is never easy to use, and only gets harder each step from the present; most people are around thirty before they can manage glimpses a few years from present. Taiyouko and Iyasu at least, are aware of this, but, including Kiyā herself, none of the six children have ever been surprised by her abilities –as if she had always been capable of it. In the same manner, once she said she was to be called Kiyā, they never once got it wrong. Later on they would come to realize why, but at this time, they still didn’t remember anything from before their birth.
Shiame kneels beside his daughter. “Does your head hurt?”
“No,” she whispers, slightly surprised to find herself holding her head, “it just feels funny, like there’s too much room in it, or it’s in lots of places at once.”
“Shiame, J- Kiyā has never been to the Forest. What does it mean, welcome back? Is it referring to the Bewaker of Sight?” Suya glances uncertainly between father and daughter, previous title holder and current.
Shiame hesitates, sensing, knowing with a power beyond him, this is not the reason. Slowly shaking his head, he answers, “Logically that could be true, but that isn’t what the Forest is referring to; the Forest has met Kiyā before. I don’t know how, but I know our Kiyā is very special.” Shiame rubs his daughter’s cheek as he speaks. Looking over to Iyasu, he bows with great playfulness, “Iyasu-sama,” master Iyasu, “which tona shall we ride?” A wide grin fills Iyasu’s face.
The tona glide through the trees, moving with care for the inexperienced children. Suya sits alone, long past the fear her younger self had; Hatar also sits alone, fitting perfectly on Subayai. The rest sit in sets of two: Shiame with Kiyā, Aly in Iyasu’s lap, and Taiyouko tightly holding Jezabellah about the middle –for no reason- and sulking slightly.
Glancing over at the tona with Aly and Iyasu, Taiyouko grumbles, “There was enough room for Aly-chan to sit with us.”
“Ehhhhhhhh, Taiyou-nii, Jezah dake wa dame ka?” Is it no good if it is just Jezah? Jez pouts, tipping her head back against her brother’s chest, trying to look into his eyes.
Absolute shock rests on his face, momentarily. Until he melts. “Of course not! Jez, my darling, angle, princess, fairy…” fifteen seconds later Taiyouko finishes his list of adjectives, “dance partner is absolutely fine alone…” Jezabellah smiles contentedly and relaxes in his lap. “But on the other hand, if I also had Aly, my little frost gem, so cold yet nature’s salvation from winter’s true harshness–”
“Taiyou-nii!!” Jezabellah rages, pounding Taiyouko with her little fists, objecting his insatiability.
Aly turns her head away from her brother and leans against Iyasu, “Bakabakashii,” ridiculous, she mutters, drawing a laugh from Iyasu. “Iyasu-nii is satisfied with only me, right?” Aly asks, tipping her head against his chest to see his face. A shadow flits over her eyes as she sees him staring at Kiyā.
Without noticing, Iyasu looks down at her, “Un, I am happy with just Aly.”
Night encroaches upon them while they are still far from their destination; the tona stop and prepare a resting place for the humans, weaving a circular platform six and a half feet off the ground. The silk stretching between the trees has just the right amount of tautness and give. On the forest floor, beneath the silk, they take out their prepared food and enjoy what should be their last dinner together –getting excited over small things, drawn into the simple-yet-complex beauty of the Forest. They don’t look like people about to part for some unknown time longer than a decade. They don’t look like people who don’t know if they will live to see each other again. You cannot tell five of the children have lost their parents and the sixth is giving hers up. The adults do not show faces torn with grief and frustration over their inability to protect these children in any manner beyond sending them away. But they feel it.
They exhibit the pain of parting in their own way, creating a Shiame-child-pile as they sleep. Kiyā sleeps on his chest, Aly and Jez on his sides, Taiyouko is fastened to the arm encasing Aly, Hatar likewise on the other side of Jez. Iyasu, sleeping on the other side of Hatar, is the only one not actually touching Shiame.
Suya sits on the ground below them, an unwritten log lying open in her lap. Shiame stares at the stars, thinking about those they look over, and Suya stares at Shiame, thinking of the stars that used to look over them.
“Gomen ne, Shiame,” I’m sorry, Suya whispers, years of excessive stress forming uncharacteristic tears.
“Doushitano?” what is wrong? “You need to apologize for something?” Shiame keeps his eyes on the stars, glad he cannot meet Suya’s gaze. “Could it be you were the one who ate my other Toren-cookie? I took it out on Taiyouko, but if it was really you and you even let Tai-kun take the blame –was it revenge on both of us?” Shiame stops as Suya stands, pressing a trembling hand against his back.
“Yoshina, Shiame,” Stop, Suya’s low voice is hollow, “It hurts doesn’t it? Isn’t it more painful than you can bear? I am sorry we couldn’t protect what you built.” A heavy, half-choked sigh breaks out. “Ashyra and Shyric. Josyf’s other half– Jahira and her child, taken just after we finally found them! All the others scattered, growing up without knowing family love; growing up like us.” The pain leaking into her voice deepens as she goes on. “They weren’t supposed to grow up like us. Dang it Shiame! Where did our world go? We’re all that’s left: Toren, Amer, you, me, half of Josyf.” Suya’s tears soak into Shiame’s soul; he doesn’t take his eyes from the stars. He cannot. “Those days we lived in danger, risking our lives for adventure, seem like the most benign of times,” A deep, bitter regret pulsates in Suya’s words.
“That they were,” Shiame agrees. “We either had the strength to protect everyone, or were taken down together. Everything was clean cut, not like this. We made our family and built our place to return to. Maybe we got complacent; we couldn’t see the truth until it was too late. But we’ll regain everyone we’ve lost. That’s our way.” Shiame fixates on the stars, knowing if he looks away, if he sees Suya for even a moment, he will break. He cannot break. For the children sleeping on him, for the woman standing below him, for the comrades he seeks to recover, and the ones he now leads. He cannot break.
Even though they have borne so much, these two –no, all of Shiame’s Ryoko-sha- will still be assaulted by yet more grief, but through it all they never broke.
The next day they resume their journey. Jezah excitedly sits with Hatar on an adult tona –Subayai jumping about the forest showing off- Aly remains with Iyasu, and Kiyā with Shiame. Taiyouko sulks by himself until Suya has had it and drags him into a deep conversation on animals that work well with hu-mans. Slowly, Iyasu, Hatar and Kiyā grow restless.
“Shiame, aren’t the tona going the wrong way? Our bearing should be farther west than this,” Suya asks after the tona have deviated from the course slightly for some time.
“The Forest is calling the tona,” Shiame answers, well aware of the chil-dren’s reactions. “What are you feeling?” He asks the three; the Forest too preoccupied to answer him.
Kiyā doesn’t answer, unable to express it.
“The Forest…is confusing,” Iyasu chooses his words carefully.
“What do you mean?” Shiame inquires.
“The Forest is calling us,” Iyasu continues.
“But it’s not coming from in the Forest,” Hatar finishes.
“It’s a place far away,” Kiyā says softly, “You won’t find it no matter how far you walk, yet its right here where we are. It looks exactly like the Forest, but it doesn’t feel like the Forest, except in one spot that’s calling us.”
“Suya –” Shiame begins.
“I know,” she cuts him off, “after all, just ahead of us is where the Imalar Palace once stood.”