Arashi rushed up the stairs of the ruined Hikari Castle. Despite being, well, ruined, the staircases and other such structures had managed to stay intact. As he emerged from the staircase, he froze at the sight of a beautiful young girl, perhaps a year older than him, the gentle breeze tugging at her long, flowing, glossy red hair, and shining, pale, icy-blue eyes, gazing down at the rubble below her. Arashi had known Tsubaki all his life. They were good friends, but he could never muster the courage to ask her out on a date - three quarters because he was too shy and one quarter because any date around here wouldn't be much better than a normal outing. He paused to gaze at her. Suddenly, a hand latched onto his shoulder from behind, nearly making him cry out in alarm. He turned around to see his brother, Rakurai.
"You seriously have to stop doing that. You're gonna get me killed one day!" Arashi whispered, careful not to alert the young girl ahead of him. He stood impassive for a moment, not sure how to handle the situation at hand.
"Arashi, just trust me. I've done this before. Stop worrying yourself sick planning out the perfect moment. Just be impulsive!" his older brother said, pushing him forward, making him cry out, causing Tsubaki to turn her head. Arashi turned to behind him to berate his brother, only to find he had vanished.
"Arashi? Hi!" Tsubaki said, a little louder than normal. Arashi began to walk forward to join her at the precipice of the castle roof (where, unbeknownst to him, his parents had faced the current ruler of the region eleven long years ago) to join his admiree, but she met him halfway, squeezing him like a plush toy, so hard he could hardly breathe."What brings you up here?" she purred, cocking a thin, wiry eyebrow.
"Um, I just came to, uh, say goodbye," he mumbled, struggling to maintain eye contact. Tsubaki chuckled girlishly.
"That's so nice of you! Thanks!" she replied, hugging him again. This time he was able to move his arms enough, without hurting them, to hug her back. She let go, clearing her throat gently and brushing her hair out of her face with her hand.
"Kasai... it's a long way away... but I have to go... there's - something I have to do there. Something that's really important to me. Y-you understand... right?" she said cautiously, as if regretting something.
"Yeah. I get it. Good luck." Arashi said, almost confidently, maintaining eye contact firmly. He almost jumped as Tsubak leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek.
"You're a really good listener. See ya around, Arashi," Tsubaki mumbled, briefly losing her confident and bouncy demeanour before quickly rushing off down the stairs.
"So? How'd it go?" Rakurai asked, nudging his brother. Arashi said nothing for a while, when he finally decided to respond, it was with an affirming nod, nothing more.
"Okay... Well, anyway, you need to be going right about now. It's just me and Helyna tonight," Rakurai said, coaxing his younger brother toward the door.
"I'll bet it is, you dog!" Arashi purred suggestively.
"No. I told you it's not like that. Now get out already!" he chuckled, almost pushing his brother out of the open door.
"Oh, and one more thing. Tsubaki's travelling to Kasai all by herself. Maybe... you should consider tagging along," Rakurai called to Arashi as he walked away, shutting the door as he finished his sentence. Arashi contemplated this for a while, before running off to the city gates.
Seven Hours Later
Helyna burst in through the doorless (one was lucky to have a house with a door. However, Rakurai was equally lucky to only have a small part of his roof collapsed, so he couldn't complain) entrance to Rakurai's house, looking out of breath. This time, she wore her Lagiacrus armour, resting her hand upon her Amphitrite to catch her breath.
"Helyna? What-! What happened!?" He said, rushing forward.
"It's not what happened....but what's happening," Helyna rasped. She uprooted her Lance from the ground, dragging Rakurai (who still wore his Narga X from the Barioth hunt) along with her, not saying a word about what was going on.
Tsubaki stoodat the battered, broken remains of the city gates, dressed in Ceadeus + armour with an Abyssal Striker, staring into the melifluous blanket of starless sky above her. She had to do this if she wanted the empire to fall. And she had to go alone. As she began to slowly walk away from the shattered archway, she heard fast-paced footsteps and a familiar voice coming up behind her.
"Tsubaki! Tsubaki, wait!"
She turned slowly to see Arashi in his Silver Sol armour.
"Arashi! What're you doing here?"
"I heard you were going all by yourself, and...I...want to go with you, Tsubaki." he said, almost as if it was something he'd been wanting to let out for a long time. Tsubaki, folded her arms slowly, pursing her lips in indecision.
"I dunno, Arashi, I... I have to go by myself..."
"No, you don't. It's dangerous and I don't want you to -" he paused, seeing the half-taken-aback expression on Tsubaki's face.
"You don't want me to what?" she asked, slowly, gently.
"I...don't want you to get hurt," he said softly. Tsubaki thought to herself quietly. Her thoughts were interrupted by the voice of the woman who had told her to go to Kasai in the first place.
"Bring that boy. He is very important to the people you must meet."
Tsubaki let out a sigh. "Come on then," she said, exasperated, smiling at the same time. The two of them walked away from Hikari and into the midnight, together.
To Be Continued in: Fate and Freedom V: By Order of the Emperor