❅ Disclaimer: There is a sensible/mature(kind of mature but not 100%?) scene in here so I heavily advise you to skip the paragraph if you do not feel comfortable with it. Thank you very much for your time and understanding! ❅
Darkness is a strange substance, like ice it has three states solid, liquid, and gas, but with a twist. Since it is a sort of mystical material, it doesn't fall under the laws of science, only able to change states by the user. In solid form, it is almost completely black aside from a very tiny shade of red at its center, like a candle in the dark, when a non-user touches it is like getting winded, if hit by a sharp point it will penetrate and quickly infect. As a liquid its thick; sticky, and has a pungent smell of ink, it can act like quicksand or just plain coat and suffocate people. As a gas its quite strange it is able to pass through a solid material with ease, suffocate, and eat away like acid. As a whole Darkness is an odd thing.
That was what Nogal remembered.
And so, he screamed for the first time, after more than twelve years, her name.
Yet, Mirto, his best friend from childhood, was gone in a flash, just to be replaced by an odd figure he had not seen for a very, very long time. It was so frightening, he regretted getting those dual pistols at the festival for her.
He could clearly make out Mirto's profile and appearance now. Her name was also again back in his brain. That uneasiness feeling was gone as well. Still, he knew this new woman wasn't the Mirto he was looking forward to remembering.
"My, my. It has been a while, hasn't it, Nogal-chan? You remembered Mirto-san's name in such an impeccable timing, commendable! Now, it is my duty to get rid of this pest that is trying to interrupt this love of ours! Because I, Áine the goddess of love, fertility, and sovereignty has arrived into this world once again, tee-hee ♥ "
Nogal sank to his knees, taking in a sight that his brain refused to comprehend. Reality had beaten down without mercy on his head. He then sat motionless, unaware of the time that passed, just staring into the mess that was about to unfold between the unnamed alchemist who seemed still unaware, and the little girl who gulped, possibly knowing what was going on.
No thoughts came to Nogal except that their fates were sealed.
Through the mist of snow came the glow of two watery blue eyes, like sallow lukewarm water eight feet off the ground. They moved with a slight sway as if the unseen body prowled like a big cat. The world stopped. The eyes did not, with rapid acceleration and a more bounding motion she came right for the unnamed alchemist. In less than two seconds she was on her back gasping for air, not knowing what was happening and Nogal was still on his knees with the little girl.
The victim was thus blinded, entering into a nightmare that would end only with the consumption of her body if Nogal remembered correctly. After all, Áine has always been known as an extremely versatile Goddess according to his sudden memory recovery. Áine will always be thought of, first and foremost, as a Goddess of Love, and even more importantly, as the Fairy Queen even if there were not as many Fairies as there were long ago when this World was created centuries ago.
In that frozen second between standoff and fighting, Nogal sees her eyes flick from the confused alchemist to him. Their faces are unreadable, however, hers revealed no fear, no invitational smirk. In that instant they fly at the alchemist, ignoring Nogal and the little girl.
Áine expects it to be over in less than five minutes, in a hell of a flash and then go back her deep slumber.
That's why Nogal knew exactly what he had to do.
A sudden gush of pain jolted throughout his body when he pushed the mysterious alchemist aside standing in between her and the Goddess. His stomach ached, his arms lost tension and his legs began to weaken even more. Yet, being scared could not get the better of him.
He had to fulfill his World Domination wish, after all.
"I remember your blows being more lethal," he said as he dropped to the ground. Bruised and winded, with a leg in agony, he grabbed the foot of the alchemist and pulled her to the ground. "I will not let you do what you please, Áine. I am sure Mirto would want that as well."
Áine’s right pistol dropped to the ground, her shadowy form still being a hazy memory to Nogal albeit her watery blue eyes.
"Oh for Mashya's sake! What is that creature!?" the alchemist finally spoke, realizing her current situation and held tightly to Nogal clearly scared. "Is that a ghoul? A-A- Wyvern!? A Wendigo!? Gashadokuro!? Hellhound!? Làbh-allan!?"
"Could you shut up!?"
"B-But I couldn't see it before and now it's visible to my eye!" the alchemist's hand was violently shaking while she traced the Goddess enveloped in shadows. "I-In all of my travels I've never encountered such a beast!"
"Don't call my best friend a beast, you second-hand apothecary!" Nogal replied, clearly hurt.
"That thing is your friend? You sure have some weird friend choices if it decided to pull the trigger and shoot a bullet through your leg! And I'm a fully-fledged licensed Alchemist I'll let you know that or my name isn't—!"
"It was meant for you, idiot! And I don't care about your identity right now, we have to calm her right this instant or we are all dead meat."
Nogal and the alchemist turned their heads around, just to see how the Goddess had just shot herself to one of her feet. Mumbling something, she started walking, trying to calm down.
"I… won’t… let you do… as you please."
Against the pristine snow, the blood trail was stark. Small droplets had tumbled and spread into the white making arcs of scarlet. The nougat haired boy looked down at the footprints, his heart drenching in sorrow. His mind took the evidence and recreated a picture, a girl with injuries to their arms, blood flying outward from flailing limbs, moving the way panicked people do, quickly, stumbling, with frequent turns to check for their attacker.
That was Mirto's doing. She's trying to stop her even if it damages her own, special body.
Yet, the other party, the small girl, could see everything unfold on her very own eyes from the very start. However, she’d rather stay quiet once she noticed Mirto's presence and Nogal did not introduce her and pretended she did not exist since the start. If he was doing that, it should be for a reason. In fact, it was a miracle itself Nogal could hear her.
Yet, what was more curious to her was: if he could hear me, if he could help me, why did he conceal her presence a secret from me?
That is why the little girl wanted to do a thing but she could not move a finger, not even move a single step. She was frightened from tip to toe. She could not go against a Goddess, after all, it would defy the rules.
She felt powerless. Very, very powerless.
So she cried silently while she watched both of her saviors (even if one was still debatable since she went full murder mode on with stones towards them).
The alchemist slowly stood up, surprising both the girl and Nogal. Shivering, she gulped. Her heartbeat echoed in her ears as Áine approached, a grim reminder of her own mortality. It beat so loudly that it seemed to want to escape her chest, to flee the oncoming bullet that could come at any moment from her last remaining dual pistol. She counted down to her own demise as surely as a ticking bomb.
But no! That wasn't her way of doing things! If she was going down, she was going to take that strange thing with her!
"Because that's the way I, Violante das Azóia does anything!"
Even if Áine's eyes were giving a glare that was freezing her bones, like being nude in the middle of a hailstorm, where every chunk of ice was a frosted dagger cutting into her skin, the alchemist kept on her place, preparing for battle.
That's when it hit Nogal and he finally stood up ignoring the pain in his leg.
"Are you insane? Are you really going to fight her? I am the only one who can calm her! She already sees you as an enemy for declaring, literally, a war against us and triggering her by saying I was supposed to fall in love with you!" he screamed, exasperated. "I'll try to buy us some time with Rusty Sword so you and the little miss run!"
He took out the mentioned weapon. Violante blinked in astonishment. The handle of the sword was bound with black leather, the hilt decorated yet understated, and the blade was short but, yet, it was falling to pieces due to how rusted it really was! He wasn’t joking when he actually called it a rusty sword.
"Woah, that thing is super RUSTworhty!" she said sarcastically.
"No way in hell!" that is why she took something out from what seemed to be a backpack. "If that little girl is my client, I have to protect her!"
"She's my client, I got dibs on her!"
The alchemist scorned, slightly annoyed and knew it wasn't a good idea to argue with someone so stubborn. When she finally took out what she was looking for, it seemed to be a staff. That was what shocked Nogal. It was a gigantic staff that no way could fit into such a tiny backpack.
"Was that... Void magic?" he asked in astonishment.
"Let's try not to get into advanced stuff... but I see, you are now interested in me, commoner!" she winked a teal eye, filled with confidence but Nogal was sure she saw her legs still quivering.
“I’m… y’know what, forget I said a thing.”
After more inspection, he had only focused on her short, platinum hair, teal eyes and tanned skin. However, the way she dressed shouted alchemist from every single angle. She wore a greenish-blue gown made of soft, satiny fabric, long and loose. A semicircular, high collar made of silk-like materials headed the ankle-length robe. Yet, every frill was of a different color and had a loose deep blue jacket on top that reached her loose arms. Long, high heeled boots accompanied her choice of black stockings plus a petite cream colored hat that seemed to have wings and pompoms.
She was indeed a very peculiar girl that carried many things in her dress as well from concoctions to empty potion bottles and a small pouch that seemed heavy.
Must be where all her stones are stored.
However, Violante spun her wooden staff that had a colorless crystal star on the middle, covered by sparkling stones and little buds all around it, remembering him of an upcoming spring. She closed her eyes, a magical circle forming under her while some magic words escaped her lips in a language he could not understand.
"Meu amor não vás a Avintes, nem p’ra lá tomes o jeito; olha que as moças de lá trazem a semente do feito!"
Leaping up into the sky, Nogal was sure Violante had even managed to touch the fluffy clouds up above them. Striking up an X pose, she took out some jewels from the small pouch he guessed correctly where they were stored. Throwing them around her staff, the colorless star began to spin at an incredible speed along her incantation while the stones around the staff stopped in mid-air near each jewel which was almost transparent.
"Sob o meu comando, peço-lhe, minhas jóias, que lute em meu nome para impedir este tumulto sem fim! Solte essa garota de suas cadeias de desespero! Quartzo Claro!"
Nogal's salmon eyes opened wildly, a sudden realization just hitting him and his head aching like crazy.
That accent... she's... she's…
Yet, he had no time to dwindle on such trivial matters.
Again Áine’s agile movement was far too slow due to Mirto's bullet to her feet. The jewels went straight to her body like small bombs, leaping like a panther, landed on her body. Dropping abruptly, Violante executed a somersault, shook herself and rose only to butt her head into the stomach of Áine hitting her hard with her staff.
Áine stood, folding both arms over her chest trying to take the staff off failed to notice that there was a small blade attached on the upper part piercing her abdomen. She didn't know a woman in the least, could be so fearful and stubborn. As she stumbled, she nearly fell over, rubbing her stomach with her palm. Violante's action certainly took her by surprise.
“What the hell!” Nogal cried. “Do you really want to get yourself killed? You will just trigger her more and–”
“She won't attack us anymore, see? However, I'm worried how my jewel alchemy isn't helping me to purify your friend..." she sighed. "That's why I had no choice but to stab her to paralyze her for a while. It seems her body is special... Her feet wound is already healing."
Nogal remained silent, ignoring her. Violante sighed, knowing she shouldn't press more on the issue.
"Purifying won't solve anything. There is only one way to solve this and, frankly, this paralysis of yours might actually work more than those stupid murdering stones."
That is why everyone was puzzled when Nogal took ahold of Áine, hugging her tightly. She was calmer, yes indeed. However, he was sure that when the curse or whatever thing Violante had done to her lifted, they would all be dead if he had not acted since the beginning. After all, he and Mirto despised this choice where they let the Goddess do her bidding.
I have to apologize to Mirto after this.
He kissed her and the world fell away. It was slow and soft, comforting in ways that words would never be. His hand rested below her ear, his thumb caressing her cheek as their breaths mingled. She ran her fingers down his spine, pulling him closer until there was no space left between them and she could feel the beating of his heart against her chest.
The next thing Nogal knew, once he was ready to leave it be, Áine had slammed her lips to his and nearly knocked all wind from his lungs.
The coral eyed boy hardly had a moment to react before she pressed her tongue to the seam of his lips and, at the grant of no access, bit his lips so she could delve inside his mouth. Since there was no consent from part of Nogal, it was a very sloppy kiss with the strong scent of a desperate person being exchanged in the intermingling of billowing breaths.
Her arms reached up and tangled around his thick, strong neck.
Words left Violante.
She stared into those bright watery blue eyes burning with passion, and her heart fell silent. As if stuck underwater, everything was slow and warped as things took place in front of her. But my mind was blank and her eyes wide as she stared at them in horror. She had to say something! She knew something else was coming so she searched her mind for something reasonable to say, but to her surprise, her heart answered instead when she heard Áine say the following words:
"I love you soooo much, Nogal-chan that I want to eat you up."
"Little girly, please cover your eyes!!!!"
So she went straight towards the braided girl and both fell into the snow.
In an instant, Nogal had pulled away and arched up, while Áine moaned in the contact of body heat against his before she drew back into his lips. She could nearly feel the slight blood where she bit him as it rolled off her tongue and seeped down her throat with every push of her tongue against his will.
"Ah, yes. That is quite enough. I am satisfied, my dear Nogal-chan. You shall be mine. You are the first of many men that have neglected my love! My primary responsibility, that of encouraging human sexuality! Remember that, Nogal-chan. I will make you fall in love with me. I will make you mine ♥ !
"Yeah, yeah. Can I have Mirto back, you insane Goddess?" Nogal spits to the ground, clearly disgusted after that sickening kiss. “I hate doing this every time I want her back.”
"My, my." Nogal couldn't see, yet he was convinced she licked her lips in a sensual way. "It has been around twelve years since you've done this and now you say it as if it was a daily thing... that breaks my poor damosel heart."
"Mirto. Now." Nogal was clearly losing his patience.
"As always, I am unwanted here. Be grateful I didn't kill that bastard over there in the snow. She deserves a thousand deaths. It's her fault you ended up like this. I won't forgive her. Ever. Even if I am the Goddess of love, and love every single human on this World, I will not accept her... and just to let you know, it isn't just because of what she said before she attacked you and Mirto-san."
"What are you talking about?" clearly confused, Nogal scratched his neck.
"If you want answers, ask Mirto-san. I am not the one who saw what happened that day, after all."
Áine had vanished like she was never there in the first place like the whole thing had been a visual joke and Mirto's body returned to be what it used to be like, as per usual. Nogal ran his hands over her hair before holding her body to the brilliant early snowy morning sun. There were no bruises at all, not of red, black or any other color. His best friend was as clean as if the day had just begun, just as beautiful.
Now that Áine was gone he felt himself begin to relax. Casting his eyes around him at the trees, listening to the birds, and mesmerized by the snow, he quite forgot the sudden situation and circumstances at the moment. Then when recalled he was holding her, he looked down to find he could finally look at her clearly, not just like a blurry figure anymore.
That feeling of uneasiness was gone once he remembered her name.
Her hair was as waves of pure earth, softly reflecting the light of the winter sun; each strand moving freely in an ocean born breeze, a compliment to her stillness. It lay on her shoulders like a waterfall flowing mildly; flaming as bright as a sunrise while long strands fell up to her waist length. With eyes closed, in glossy serenity, her aura seeped into the winter air between us.
And at that moment, in that fraction of time, her smile was in every given feature, and Nogal knew tranquility had finally arrived in his heart. Nogal got lost into the beauty mark under her right eye. It was mesmerizing as it had always been.
A small partition of her hair was tied down in a loop, two symmetrical braids falling down. On top, she wore a black hat that seemed to end with cat ears but, according to Mirto, it was a fashion statement and not cat ears. On the left side of it, a pin resembling a butterfly ended up with two different colored ribbons. Her wardrobe choice could be considered eccentric, but Nogal couldn’t say a thing. After all, he had been seeing her for twelve years as if he had some sort of eyesight problem.
The upper part consisted of a small cream layer that went on top of a crimson long jacket that ended up with cream sleeves that ate part of her wrists, alongside golden buttons. Yet, that was not enough for her so she had to wear a short champagne colored dress with a small ribbon just right up to her thighs were the dual pistols were stored alongside some white frills.
Somehow, she had tied up an old fabric on her waist as well as some sort of cape to avoid any unnecessary accidents regarding her short skirt. Her small pouched bag was tightly held by beads while her high heeled angel-winged moccasins were tightly tied with pink ribbons featuring chamomiles
All Nogal hears is Mirto’s breathing, a sound that once brought him peace and now anxiety and then peace and then anxiety and the cycle repeated itself. Now with every intake, he feels the invisible noose around her neck grow tighter and everything beyond is further away.
Until the background characters became relevant once again.
"Ah, it seems everything is over now!" said Violante approaching them while holding the little girl's hand. "Woah, so she was another person! The purification worked! Also, she is pretty cute, lucky you!"
"It wasn't your purification, for Mashya's sake!" he screamed, tears forming at the corner of his eyes.
"Aw, you're actually pretty sweet!" the alchemist said, puffing her cheeks in a cheerful manner. "Since it seems we both took this request, let's join forces for now and help this little girl. Take it as my way of apologizing for almost killing y'all."
"I think we deserve more compensation, in a PSYCHOLOGICAL WAY, but I'll let it slide due to the reward."
"Um, Mister..." the little girl finally spoke gathering up all of her courage. "May I... ask a question?"
"Sure, go ahead. Ask all you want. I... apologize for making you go through all of this." Nogal bowed. “I… wasn’t expecting it to blow out of proportions…”
“That’s also part of my fault… I assumed you were trying to abduct my client or something…” Violante laughed nervously and decided to stop once Nogal gave her a death stare.
"T-That's fine!" she shook her hand apologetically. "First of all let me introduce myself properly. My name is Prier du Tillet and um, just like your friend here I... I am sorry to keep it hidden but I am a lesser goddess just like your unconscious friend over there! H-However do not be scared, please! A-Actually nevermind, I am not a lesser goddess, let's say that your friend there's original form is my... queen? Ah, how shall I put this..."
"That means you are a fairy spirit...?" Nogal asked, dumbfounded.
"A fairy spirit resides inside of me, yes! And um, regarding my question... how did you... manage to see my request? Although... if your friend is a Goddess it makes much more sense now..."
"I'm pretty lost but let's pretend I understand everything so nod-nod," Violante crossed her arms, nodding just as she said.
"Violante-san, that question actually goes directed towards you. It makes sense if Nogal-san was able to see it since he is in direct contact with Mirto-san..." Prier fumbled with her hands, unsure of how to explain things and looked at the boy for some help. Nevertheless, he refused to give it, more concerned about Mirto's welfare. "Well... you see, I'll do my best I can to explain things!"
"Alrighty, little girly! Although, Violante is very very formal for me so you can just call me Vio or Vivi! Whatever floats your boat!" the alchemist winked her eye, trying to calm her down.
"O-Okay... so, um... Vio...san..." stuttering, Prier took a deep breath and kept going. "We are invisible to the human eye since ancient times. Only very few humans can see us. They do not have a special name since no one has ever decided to give them one. They don't believe it to be that special and do very little to get involved with us. Still, I had hope that someone, someday, would see my request for help! If anyone with this special power touches anything one of us does it becomes visible for others. The same goes for body contact."
"So that explains why I couldn't see what was attacking us at the start... and I found it so weird for it to appear out of nowhere until mister edgelord here touched her cute friend." Vio nodded even faster, now clearly understanding the situation at hand. "So whaddayamean when you say that that cutie over there goes crazy is your Queen?"
"That's too much sensible information for an outsider who shouldn't be related to issues that don't concern this request." Nogal stood up, carrying an unconscious Mirto on his back. "Now, back to the current issue on hand, the mission you have for us, what have you lost?"
"Hey! Our conversation was getting interesting over here!" Vio protested.
"After this is over, I need to have a long talk with you so let's focus for now." Afterward, Nogal looks at the girl. "Well, then. Tell us. We'll escort you. If you are scared about Áine, she won't show up anymore if she isn't triggered."
"Very well, then... Let me take you there. To the place where the rolling hills of yellowing grass mingle with snow basking in the moonlight."
A gust of dry wind winds through the maze of ancient houses where windows have long shattered in the weakness of their structures and rotting boards, some broken, others hanging trying to cover the empty eyes of every abandoned home. Doors hang on the few threads of their hinges and groan with pain at every sway. Weeds socialize across the cracking asphalt of every road, gathering and laughing at the lone pedestrians as they try to weave around the catching fingers with every step.
Nogal didn't know how they ended up in such a place.
From a snowy place to an abandoned village, just my day.
The old road was barely discernible through the flora that had colonized it and so the dilapidated village. These were tear-downs that no-one had any incentive to demolish. They were inhabited by the birds and sometimes sheltered wild dogs. The occasional window was still in possession of its glass but most had broken so long ago that there was no trace of the shards on the rotting plank floors. In most homes, the roofs had partially caved in or at the very least they sagged like a disappointing soufflé. The only welcome was the howl of the wind and the only future of the town was to be slowly beaten by the weather and eventually succumb to gravity without even a witness or person to mourn its passing.
"Are you sure you lost something in here, Prier-chan?" gulped Vio, shaking while holding her staff.
"Yep! After all, I live here. That's why I know!"
"You... what?" The alchemist was at a loss for words.
However, Nogal wasn't surprised. He knew exactly why and remained quiet. He didn't want to give the stranger girl more explanations.
The ghost town was forgotten entirely. It had been built in a shallow basin and so once over the brow, the smattering of rotting wooden buildings disappeared from view. It had less charm than a graveyard, at least those are places built out of sentimentality and love. This was a place built by greed and abandoned without a backward glance. They came with the allure of gold in the hills and left in bitterness, resenting the land for its failure to deliver them unearned wealth. Just to stand amid the rotting town was enough to make you feel like a ghost, an unwanted specter of the humans that came to take and never give, never to love the land or nature, not to make a home or be respectful. In the still air of this natural depression, the stain of their indifference had time to sink into your skin. It was beautiful and melancholy, haunting in its desertion. A monument to what motivated its builders and a testimony to their undying folly.
"My jewels are trembling..." murmured Vio.
"Your jewels are... what?" the nougat haired boy stopped for a second, fixing Mirto on his back. "Do your jewels have properties or something?"
"You see, barbarian, my jewels are sensitive to auras and energies. This place stinks! That's why I am worried about where are we going! And yes, of course, they have you... you dumb-dumb! First of all the jewel, I used with your friend, the Clear Quartz, has...!"
"Here we are!" said Priere, showing them a big building.
It was made of faux-Victorian architecture and built in a landscape that bore eternal grudges. The fence looked so flimsy, unobtrusive, almost non-existent; it was just three strands of wire that you had to squint to see on a misty overcast day. But what it lacked in visual presence it more than made up for in punch. Pale cedar planks that were yet to see a drop of rain stood unvarnished in the blistering August sun. Five feet tall with a foot of trellis on top giving a peek of the neighbor's yard divided up into neat little rhomboid shapes.
A gigantic tree was to be the jewel of the garden. The way the owners planned it we would be drinking in the aromas of the late summer blooms, soothed by the dead dry waterfall between the two ponds and sinking into the delicate skin of homegrown organic fruits. After a busy winter and spring in the warehouse, sorting inventory before the big boss's audit, the neglected tree was in no state to be the jewel of anything. The bark had a sort of creeping mildew and the leaves were curled in an unhealthy way."Have you brought us to a haunted house, Prier-chan...?" asked Vio without a hint of delicacy.
"Of course not, Vio-san, this is my home and this is the place where I lost something! I really do need help...." she gave them a gesture to come in, her asymmetrical braids swaying in the sudden creepy breeze until it began.
"WHAT WAS THAT!?" Vio jumped on top of Nogal without thinking.
"You are heavy! Remember I already have Mirto on my back, woman!" he replied, his back aching from the pain.
"That's strange? Who could it be?" Prier seemed as confused as both teenagers, thus she headed inside first being the head of the house. "Let me check..."
"No! No!" Vio jumped off from Nogal, hugging Prier. "What if you die!?"
Prier and Nogal look at each other, not knowing what to say.
"Um, I'll be fine."
"Heck, I'll take a look."
So once Nogal stepped inside, he couldn't bask on the appearance of the house. He just focused on the three presences that were scared for their lives and screaming from what seemed to be from a life and death situation.
Guess it'll finally be your time to shine Rusty Sword. Thankfully, I've fought with Mirto on my back before so I hope she doesn't wake up feeling too dizzy after this.