The sun had finally risen over Kasai.
Jinsoku twirled the Yamiokami Gem around with his fingers, gazing into it blankly, deep in thought. To be honest, he had completely forgotten that he had had it in the first place, what with everything else going one. The month or so they had spent in their own time felt like another wold now. Another universe, even. Suddenly he was forced out the recesses of his mind when the door opened and Shinji came in, walking slowly toward him, staring the jewel he held.
"Forgot about that thing. Apparently we have to keep it safe of something," she said.
"Yeah...well..." he gave up talking as the young girl came to sit down next to him on the side of the bed. He carefully placed the gem on a nearby tabletop, his eyes still fixated on Shinji. They looked into each other's eyes for a few moments, until their lips locked, and the rest of the universe seemed to fall into nonexistence.
That was until a well spoken, effluent voice shattered the moment into a million tiny pieces.
"Makoto and Skylar have retured with the "Angel of Kasai". But I fear...I know...that you will not like what you see," Nina said stiffly.
And finally the penny dropped at long and painful last.
"Gale!" Shinji cried, and grabbed hold of Jinsoku's hand and the pair of them sprinted downstairs. Nina watched aloofly, stalking her way down the stair slowly, as if gliding.
The occupants of the house in their entirety stared in awe at the lifeless corpse of their beloved friend and comrade, Gale, who was laid out on the tabl with her hands clasped together, like a slumbering princess in a fairty tale. If it weren't for the hole in her abdomen and the whitness of her dead skin, anyone would think her asleep. If only that were true.
Altair stood with his arms folded and his green eyes full of remorse,Skylar (still a child at heart) clung sheepishly to Makoto's robes, while Makoto herself stared blanky and let the tears fall freely, Hiro stood against the fireplace, smoking his pipe, his aged grey eyes flooded with concern-he didn't know Gale enough to grieve like the others, but wasn't cold enough as to disregard a human life, especially one with the power that would bring freedom to the people. Roux stood with Nina, surveying the scene with as much detachment as she could. Mizu was curled up against the wall, crying, adjacent to the fireplace with his head burined in his arms, which were hanging his knees.
Jinsoku stood with the others, staring at the floor or at other people or objects, unable to bring himself to look at the peaceful corpse before them.
"Who did this?" Altair asked with concern.
"...Kazir...," Makoto whimpered, images of the moment flashing before her eyes.
"That goddamn son of a bitch!" Gigas yelled. Altair laid a calming hadn on his shoulder, and Gigas regained his composure as well as he could.
"He is dead, however. I killed him myself.," Nina said with false confidence, although she knew all to well that she was lying to them and herself.
"Did you satb his heart?" Hiro asked plainly. Nina's eyes shifted.
"Then he is very much alive."
Shinji walked slowly over to Mizu, and knelt down in front of him. Slowly he looked up, tears streaming down his face, his eyes red from crying. "Come here," she said, a motherly comfort in her voice, her arms spread wide. Slowly but surely, Mizu embbraced her. He screamed with melancholy grief, and she burst into tears.
Shinji pulled her neack away from Mizu's shoulder, her eyes swimming with tears, and looked at Nina, who stared sadly (even her detachment had limits) at Gale's body.
"Can't you do anything?" she sobbed, although she knew as well as anyone that her friend was gone.
"I am not a god..." Nina said sadly, then added, "But...I can do this much..."
The crowd watched as the ethereal young girl approached the table, and moved her palm horizontally across Gale's body. As she did, so, the grim cadaver brightened; the maw in her chest vanished and her skin and hair recovered it's vitality. Her hair also change style along the way, the short ponytail changing to freeflowing hair that reached down to her elbows.
"Now time will never ravage her," Nina whispered. Suddenly, Roux interrupted the ghastly, eerie silence.
"I just remembered! There is a way to bring her back! You all know the legend of the Lost City of Water, right? Most people think it's just a myth, an old wives' tale, a bedtime story. But I've been there, I've seen it. The Lake of Eternity will bring her back!"
The group's murmurs of optimism were soon shattered by Hiro.
"Roux, even if it is real, it's not on any map from any cartographer in the entire world. We would never ever find it," he rasped sadly.
"'Tis not a problem," Nina disagreed, still kepping her cool exterior in spite of recent events, " for I will be your chaperon in this endeavour." The group's confidence blossomed again, even causing Shinji and Mizu to gaze up in hope.
"You know the way?" Mizu said hopefully.
"Of course. I know every location in every spot in this world." And many, many more worlds, she thought to herself.
"Then it is settled. We will travel to the Lost City. I just hope that Roux is correct, for Gale's sake," Altair said confidently.
"This is most opprtune timing. I believe some...allies...will be arriving at Kasai shortly," Nina added.
"Allies?" Gigas repeated questioningly.
"Yes. They are young, but one of them is a Descendant, and he another of these four are very special to one of you," Nina explained cryptically. "As such, it would be wise not to go until they get here."
"How long will they be?"
"They are here in the city now. I brought them here. But, much to my disdain, I could not bring them to you. Teleporting is quite a delicate opeartion, and too many...occupants, for want of a better word, makes it far less efficient and far more dangerous. As my particular brand of teleporting relies of=n the energy of both space and time to work correctly, telepoting the four of them and me more than once would more than likely have created a paradox."
"Um, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I don't think we have very much time to wait. At all." Jinsoku groaned, staring out of the window. The group would have joined Jinsoku by the window to see for themselves, but a nine-strong crowd would not all be able to see through such a small window.
"What is it, Jin?" Shinji said, her and Mizu both standing now, holding their sadness in (for now, at least).
"It's a load of imperials, they're gathering in the city plaza, where were when we first got here," Jinsoku answered seriously. The alleys to the right of the window weren't very far, and you could just about get a good view of the plaza if you looked at the right angle. "And there's a weird looking one at the front with some snazzy blue and white uniform and a short blonde hairdo, and a weird looking sword." It was amazing that anybody could pick up such detail from so far, but Jinsoku had always had eagle eyes. You had to, to use a bow, after all. It was no wonder his accuracy was so finely tuned.
"Then they are here for us, and thet gem of your, Jinsoku. It will not be long before they disperse and find us here. We must act quickly," Nina said calmly, a white portal opening behind her as she did so. Everybody stepped through, one by one, so as not to "overload" the portal, Mizu carrying Gale's body tentatively in his arms, Nina quietly exiting last. Stopping to look at Hiro, who had yet to follow suit.
"Are you not coming?" she asked.
"No. I am far too old to be of any help. I know nothing you don't already know yourself. There would be no point."
"They will kill you. You do know that, correct?"
"Of course. But it matters not. I am old, and quite tired as it happens. I will be fine."
"Very well then. Goobdbye."
Nina finally stepped through the closing portal, leaving the old man alone with his thoughts.
To Be Continued in: Fate and Freedom XI: Shinkaiyami's Heart