Green. The Designated.

© 2001 by Torquemada

This page was last modified: 2001/08/24


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-- I can't believe it! No, I should've known that you wouldn't resist to spoil it all your way! You and your pranks!

-- Touchy today, are we?

Human beings have developed a variety of protections to deal with inevitable threats. So have I, although I am only half human, and that half seems to decrease with every day. Nevertheless, I do have my personal way to keep myself from going wild in the face of approaching death, though the situations that are able to put a deadly fright on me, decrease altogether with my humanity.

Yet, in the situation that is taking place right now, I still need to occupy my mind with something, that will prevent me from giving up and going crazy.

As a rule, I fill my mind with some music, in cases like this, both hearing it and reading the notes -- it's hard to explain, since it is very personal; double hard it is to explain it to someone who is not gifted in music, hence I won't even try. It is enough to say, that now it is Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" that I recalled. It was the first to come into my mind, and no wonder -- it matched the happening situation precisely. The world's richest and most intelligent schizophrenic maiden and the most handsome death I would ever expect to encounter.

And it is not fear that I try to stifle. No, if Jabu and the others, now sprawled on the frozen grass, watching us with a helpless horror, could hear my thoughts, they would be unpleasantly shocked.

Because I think 'Who did that to you, who chased you here to perform a task, the repulsion for which your eyes even do not try to hide? Just say a word, and I will fall on them like a grim revenge, because now I am strong, now I can protect you'; and another, even more irresistible thought, 'You can't imagine how I am happy to see you again'...

Call me insane after that, perhaps I really am. Most definitely I am not normal -- like I said, I am the richest and smartest split-personality in the world. The rich girl is named Saori Kido, she is a teenager millionaire, spoiled brat, the worthy heir of her grandfather, now ruling with her iron hand the inherited business of organizing fights for money -- damn enormous money, I must say.

The intelligent personality is Athena, the Goddess of War and Wisdom from Greece, timeless and omnipotent. Besides that, she is the messiah. Both of them dislike each other noticeably. Athena despises Saori for being rational, material cynic, who can't see much further than her own nose and doesn't like to sacrifice even the slightest part of her comfort for anything, and being odd enough to hate her own source of income -- that is, the fighting. On her own side, Saori hates Athena for ruining her life, occupying her mind and ordering her future.

Both are strong in their own way, and this balance is the only thing, that helps me to stand my miserable life without going insane. I still remember very well, what a person can be turned into, if one of the personalities is stronger; so I try to be happy. I even developed a particular liking for the intruder Athena. She is not that bad, after all -- romantic, fair, just. Very strong. I even learned some things from her.

And still...sometimes I so painfully long for the times when Saori was alone. Ignorance is a bliss indeed, in most cases. It makes your life much easier, the only problems you have are just where to invest parts of your wealth to receive some profit, how to pick the proper people -- those are a piece of cake, and the more serious ones, for example -- what to wear for the occasion of a pompous party thrown in honor of Julian Solo's sixteenth birthday.

I definitely have the selective memory. Exactly then, on Julian's party, I met my beautiful forthcoming death for the first time. Then, I still was Saori Kido, shamelessly rich broad, the welcome guest to every party thrown by rich snobs for other rich snobs. And since I was a rich snob with a sense of duty, I participated in the most important ones. Never waste the chance to make another useful connection, grandpa used to say, and I was the perfect inheritor. Until that day...but lets start from the beginning, shall we?

The flight from Japan to Greece is nothing to improve one's looks and moods, so when I finally leave the plane, I feel like a china doll with a crack in her head. Colors too vivid, sun too bright, sounds too loud...Tatsumi's steps echo in my head like heavy bell tolls, and when I hear someone arguing, loudly, in addition, I barely can hold a wish to dash there and roar 'Silence!!!' like the hysterical librarian. The funny image cheers me up a bit, and my mind regains to get meanings of words, not only the loudness.

What I hear, interests me. Because there is someone mature moralizing someone young -- a painfully familiar topic for me. Grandpa always moralized me, pointing at some mysterious high duty, now Tatsumi moralizes me, but he stresses on my duty to find myself a worthy match, thus I developed the reflex of some sense of unity with anyone being moralized. So I stop in hearing range, but out of sight, and listen.

"...disgrace to the family!" the mature man's voice says. "Are you doing this on purpose or because of your immaturity? I was tolerant to all your escapades before, but this does not mean I will tolerate your indecent behavior forever! Don't play with my patience, Syd, because it does have a bottom!"

"Please, Fritjoff," now, a female voice, deep and soothing, enters. "But this is just a haircut..."

"This is not just a haircut, Thordis, and please stop protecting him for once! This is his umpteenth pathetic attempt to rebel, next in his never-ending line. And what a moment he has chosen -- when we were honorably invited here and must use all our possibilities to fulfill the duty of the representation..."

At that moment I am already intrigued enough to take a peek at that unfortunate haircut, which caused the older man to react in such rage. So I sheesh at Tatsumi, who is puzzled about my behavior (he always is), and crouch further. Luckily, there are some trees, in shades of what I might prevent myself from being noticed.

At first, my attention is fully captured by the couple in probably their forties. Very good-looking couple, both tall and beautiful -- I have this strange admiration towards tall people; maybe because there are none of them in my homeland. But I haven't managed to notice the owner of the infamous haircut, until he starts to speak. And not because that his light green hair, green wooly sweater and bleached jeans fuse with the roundabouts -- there is something more that makes him look stealthy.

"I do not understand, father, why you are so incontent," meantime, the younger man starts to speak, and I pay closer attention to him. He is probably a few years over my age, tall, taller than his father is, and very lean. "Have you seen, what Hagen of the Volsungs has done with his hair? It looks much more exotic for my tastes, yet nobody seems to care about that."

"Don't let the Northern barbarians be an example for you!" the father glares at him, while I admire the boy's haircut. It consists of an edgy dishevelled mane on top and a long strand coiling down his back. This, altogether with the long sweater and jeans, would perfectly make the boy fit in some company of punks, somewhere in a park drinking beer and torturing guitars, but in a snob party? Now I fully understand the rage of his father, but all my inner congratulations go to the punk boy. He strongly reminds me of relatively fresh events, when I threatened my own grandfather with the decision to put a ring into my nose. I never fulfilled that wish of mine, though, but I had a lot of interesting time.

"Barbarians? But isn't Lady Hilda the supreme ruler of all our lands?" the punk replies with the precisely calculated amiable logic, and I congratulate him again. There is no better way to annoy one's elders, than a nasty truth uttered in a calm voice.

Like a living proof, the older man draws a sharp gasp of breath, this is a dangerous sign; but then, his wife spoils all the entertainment, taking, tenderly yet firmly, her husband on his elbow, and whispering something.

"The conversation is not over," the man spits the words and then the couple turn away and leave. The punk boy stands in the same place, hands in pockets, and looks at their backs. I have a feeling that he wishes to stick his tongue at them, and even encourage him, mentally, to do that.

Instead, he turns his head and our eyes meet.

His eyes do not fit the image of the rebellious teenager. Catlike, save the mild brown color, and suddenly very warm. Yet, there are some green sparkles dancing inside, that both hint on something predatory lurking and add to an overall soothing impression...and I realize that for a few long seconds I stare, utmost impolitely, into the eyes of some person I even do not know.

So does he, as a matter of fact. Now, saying 'Good evening' would sound utterly out of place, but I can't think of anything more appropriate.

But he does not give me a chance. A brief nod of acknowledgement, very informal -- and he leaves after his parents.

And I still stand there, awkwardly stunned -- not for long, thank goodness. I am, after all, the rational businesswoman. So bedazzlement leaves, yet the curiosity refuses to do the same, and I approach the bulky big car, deciding that it belongs to the family I just saw.

There is the coat of arms on its side -- cat's muzzle with a ferocious grimace and enormous fangs.

"Tatsumi, please come here," I call my trusty chaperone. Tatsumi is a big expert in heraldic. I never expected, that this silly hobby of his might ever come in handy.

"Yes, milady?" he materializes next to me in his unnerving manner.

"Can you tell me whose coat of arms this is?"

He throws a brief look, and announces, confidently:

"Jarl of Rogaland county. That's in Southern Asgard."

Asgard, now I am truly intrigued. The most mysterious part on Earth, very aloof and very difficult to travel to -- it is said that it's some kind of magic that causes it. Magic and other obsolete prejudices of human race are always connected with that country, which are not welcome to the outlanders (like there are hordes of them prying to that hostile piece of eternal frost, hah), and basically does not care about the rest of the world. I have never seen anyone from there, I mean until now.

The spell of mythic adds to my curiosity significantly, and at the snob party I scan the guests, searching for the Asgardians.

Jarl Fritjoff, the perfect representative of nobility, speaks with someone with a polite thin smile. His beautiful wife is a few steps away, also involved in some conversation, and she looks so interested, that I'm sure the conversation is unbearably boring -- was it the other way round, she could not keep such a precise mask of interest. But where's my punk?

It takes some time for me to notice him. And that's because I stupidly expected him to show here with the same green sweater and tattered jeans, but now he is in similar gentry clothes as his parent's, and doing similar things -- that is, involved in some unsincere conversation about nothing.

I feel so disappointed -- even personally offended, although I know perfectly, how stupid it is. First of all, it was completely silly to expect him to appear here in what I saw him. He is, after all, just a normal teenager, and knows about right time and right place. Just like me.

Just like me. That's the problem. I created an image of rebel for myself, and squeezed the real person in it, making him a kind of ideal that I will never achieve -- after all, I never pierced my nose, and most of the time I was -- and am -- the good obedient girl. How silly, how outrageously stupid it was of me, hoping him to be something, that I always wanted to be, but never had the courage to become...some cheesy idiot I am.

But despite of my own logical conclusions, I cannot stop my mood from being gradually ruined. And I make some harsh remark about Tatsumi's babbling, though I didn't even hear what he was saying.

Tatsumi looks at me like a kicked puppy, and the guilt prickles my heart. It was very unfair to flush my irritation on him; so I apologize and try to involve myself in the conversation.

"I was talking about young Solo," Tatsumi continues. After martial arts and heraldic, his next hobby is gossiping, and we gleefully wash the bones of poor Julian, for some time, until, all of a sudden, we are interrupted by the hero of the evening himself.

Boy, is he the drop-dead gorgeous piece of man, that Julian! The one ultimate perfection, from his manners, when he bends down to kiss my hand, and smooth compliments he awards me with, to his perfect looks (and if he doesn't know himself how beautiful he is, then I'll eat my hat. No, I'll eat Tatsumi's socks). His eyes are of deep-sea colour, and equally cold; I feel my skin creep while he estimates me. What unnerving, dull, heavy eyes, not a sign of lively green sparkles...oh, what I am thinking about?

"May I have a word with you?" Julian asks.

Sure he may, why not? The Solos are equally wealthy as the Kidos, so I have no right to waste a possible business connection. I let myself be guided to the balcony; Julian starts to talk about something highly sophisticated and not business-like; I decide I can allow myself to skip it, so I just put a mask of the mild interest, and, trying to nod in appropriate places, I let my mind wander where it wants to.

And it wants to annoyingly go back to the startling picture of the Asgardian punk.

Why do I feel so irrationally upset? Even betrayed? Hell knows...and altogether I must admit, that in his gentry outfit he looks as gracious and natural as in the sweater-jeans combination. That it so unfair...but wait, why unfair? He did nothing wrong to me. He doesn't even bloody know me! I am so crazy. Really, really crazy.

Deep in my thoughts, I apparently miss something important -- Julian looks at me with some smug expectancy. Now, what did I miss him saying? Oh my...

"Excuse me?" I smile at Julian, most sweetly.

He looks at me, unpleasantly surprised. Uh-oh, some impudent girl dared to miss a part of his perfect speech. That must be soooo insulting...I do the mental devilish grin.

But then it comes my time to be shocked.

"Will you marry me, Lady Saori?"

Touché! He definitely did a good revenge on me for not listening, and I can't come up with an answer better than 'What a quaint joke,' and try to flee away.

"Wait, please!" he stops me. "I can explain."

And he does.

It appears that he is dead serious with that marriage proposal, since the marriage is the simplest way to joint our megalocorporations into one establishment. And that would be the perfect fulfillment of both my grandfather's dream about the perfect deal and Tatsumi's fervent wish to see me married to the proper man.

The day before, I would probably had said yes. After all, that is how people of my league usually marry. The plain weighed deal -- and such marriages are, as a rule, happy, since the couple involved have a lot in common, beginning with the grip on reality and finishing with the polite, indifferent respect to each other's personal lives.

The day before...but not today. The bloody Asgardian's sown anxiety in my soul has grown into the nasty irresistible sense of opposition to anything. He let me down (Why do I keep asserting this? Men call such things 'female logic', as much as I know. Ah, whatever), and now I am sick thinking about being the same opportunist like I always am -- and I'm filled with a fervent resistance to any attempts to treat me like one.

Because I am not like that today. And I am not marrying any rich bugger that I see the first time in my life. I do not want to be the perfect lady anymore...well, maybe that's too strongly said, maybe tomorrow I will wake up the same right bred posh babe again, and my benefit will rule over my wishes like always. But today I am going to be what I have mistakenly seen in that pathetic calls-himself-punk -- the rebel without a clue. At least this day I shall do what I want, not what is reasonable. And if you don't like it -- that's your own problem, buddy. Sorry, cannot help.

"I am truly honored by your offer," I coo, and see the grin of the winner appearing on Julian's face; I sincerely savour the sweet feeling of the knowledge on the forthcoming wipeout of that I-get-all-what-I-want expression. This is elating, and I continue:

"...but I am afraid I must reject your offer."

The grin freezes into the grimace. I feel content as never before in my life; this gives me the next sweet line:

"I should go to my rooms now. A long journey awaits me tomorrow. Good night, Julian," I award him with a sincerely happy smile and turn away, carrying the charming portrait of the extreme pomposity defeated. I feel no pity at all, but the dizzying pride -- first time in my entire life I did something so unwise, so irrational -- and so sincere. So fully mine. And nothing can take it away.

I am too excited to go to sleep immediately. The overflow of mixed emotions drives me to some nervous activity, which I must let out -- but I don't want to go back to the snob party.

"I am going for a walk", I say to Tatsumi. "And you stay here."

"But Miss Saori!" he whines, horrified. "It's late night, it is dangerous for a lady to walk alone!"

"Dangerous? This private territory of Solo is guarded better than the World Bank," I ruin, cheerfully, his determination to shadow me like always. This time I want to be alone, thus I shut the door behind me, utterly deaf to his protests. I know that he will not follow me, secretly, though. He has his own code of laws towards me.

I walk, hastily, until the glow and noises of Solo mansion are left far behind, then I slow my steps. The roundabouts of Julian's domain are truly charming, I must admit. The rocky coast of the sea, an occasional group of trees; the moon, big, yellow and round like cheese, casts a path of light on the peaceful surface of the sea. Most definitely, I will run over a couple or two here, that came to search for the romantic background for their funny love games. It's good that the moon is so bright, I hope to notice lovebirds, if there will be any, and round them without scaring them away.

"Hello," someone's voice says, and I turn abruptly, more flustered than scared. Won't I be allowed to have some privacy even in this desolate place?

My eyes meet another pair of eyes -- catlike, with naughty green sparkles and two tiny moon-cheeses reflecting in them.

I summoned him here. I thought about him all day, and now he is here, dragged on a beam of my subconscious call -- that is my first impulsive thought. Yet, my rational mind tramples over this pathetic supposition almost immediately.

"Were you following me?" I ask coldly, ignoring his greeting. I won't tolerate the deliberate intrusion into my privacy, if it's uninvited. Even from him.

"No," moon cheeses shift in his eyes, as he turns his head, slightly, towards me. "I came here first. In fact, I was expecting you to pass by, but when you stopped, I decided to reveal myself this time."

"This time?" I feel a sudden concern about his words. Does it mean that there was some other time?

Tiny yellow moons disappear for a moment.

"I overheard your conversation with the house master," -- a sigh. "It really was unintentional, since you have not noticed me, and I kept quiet because I thought you both would go away soon. And when things went personal, it was already too late. If I turned out like a bad penny, it would only be worse, wouldn't it?"

I hear the shy, pleading invitation in his voice to agree with him and to justify his unpurposeful meddling, but I can't accept it.

"No, it wouldn't. Nothing could make that situation even worse."

"Well, then..." he sighs, but I interrupt him.

"But never mind. Now, we are even with each other. I also overheard your clash with your folks, remember?"

"Right!" he flashes the frisky grin at his memories.

"Did it end okay, with your father?"

"I'll handle it," he shrugs, airily, and leaves the stone he was sitting on. "Mind if I join you in your walk?"

Without much surprise, I hear myself saying 'No'.

For some time we walk the coast, silently, he's kicking an occasional small stone, I squat to dip my fingers (for what sake?) into the sea. The silence is not oppressing, it seems in place and natural. Somehow, his presence is not disturbing me, considering my recent wish to spend the rest of this day alone. It is not that he's like invisible, just he is somewhat fitting here, with me. Like it can be no other way.

Whoopsy daisy, here it goes again, the reasonless part of my mind. It's better to tear this feeling away, but he surpasses me by starting to speak himself.

"I was truly impressed by your conduct in that situation. That was really tough...you know, I envied you a lot, then. Wish I could be as strong and resistant as you, really," he says in a very serious voice, and I can't believe my ears.

What a subtle irony -- to admire in me exactly the same act, which was caused by his own influence.

"That was nothing tough, actually -- to refuse the proposal of someone I have never seen before, and hopefully will never see again. You are much braver, as a matter of fact, going against your own father -- since the family is always with you and is really important," I cannot resist an urge to say something nice to him. Not because he flattered me. Just because.

"Going against?" he repeats with a bitter irony. "That was just childish and silly, silly, silly fuss! I know I cannot conflict with him in anything that really matters, I am too good and sweet a kid," the words are said with a painful self-mockery, "So I content myself with stupid caprices, because in every other case I obey him, and he orders all my life in a proper way, like he sees it. And when he will decide with another family about my match, I will obey, too, despite of my own wishes. I am weak, unlike you. You did not let yourself be sacrificed for someone else's benefit. That was so..."

"Please, enough about that," I silently ask. He disarmed himself completely for me, agreed with just everything that I accused him for myself that day, thus disarming me, accordingly -- and I don't want to hurt him anymore.

In fact, I didn't even want to hurt him before he admitted his weakness to me. Moreover, I don't want him to hurt himself, I don't want him to be hurt at all, by anyone, anything...

And I clearly feel it's the time to change the subject, while this cheesy romance hasn't won, completely, over my habitually rational self.

"You like cats, don't you?" He turns to me, eyes slightly widening in surprise. He evidently did not expect me to jump from apples to oranges, and that's good -- the funny question makes him smile, forgetting the distressing subject of duty and obedience. I like the way he smiles.

"Why are you asking?"

"Uh, you stalk like a cat, and you can be as invisible as a hiding in hunting cat, and there is a cathead on your coat of arms," just in time, I remember the symbol on the car's door, and the last clueless remark hopefully will smother the fascination in my words.

"It's not a cat, but a sabertooth tiger. They were believed to live in our parts in ancient times. And yes, I do like cats," he replies in the opposite order of my question.

"Got a cat at home?"

"No. I would like to, but I'm afraid Mr. Baggins won't be pleased about a cat in the house."

"Mr. Baggins?"

"My...pet," he says, suddenly bashful, and I can swear he blushes; be cursed the night and it's perfect ability to conceal. Mr. Baggins? The name resembles one of a dog; some well-natured mongrel, or maybe a hunter dog -- big and hairy, exactly of the type his father would choose for him -- but why the abashment?

"Who's Mr. Baggins?" I'm utterly driven by curiosity.

"You'll laugh," he says.

Is he really confused and did I do that? Seeing him like that causes another wave of the reasonless tenderness to flood my heart. I say nothing, bemused, but he decides to proceed, after all.

"Mr. Baggins is...my hare."

A hare? Such a predatory looking creature like him keeps a pet hare? The world has really turned upside down; I smile, and he hurries to explain, defensively:

"I found him when I still was a kid. It was wounded and very shy, but with the time it appeared that he really had a personality. I called him Bilbo initially, since he was round, calm, neat and dug holes to live, but sometimes he surprised me with escaping the supervision and heading for adventures, just like Bilbo. And since now he is old, I pay respects to his age and call him Mr. Baggins instead of Bilbo. That is the character from the very genial book, it's about..."

"I know," I nod. "The Hobbit."

"You've read it," he rather states than asks, fascinated.

"Yes, and 'Lord of the Rings', too. Ancient books, but miraculous. I liked them a lot."

"Me too," he awards me with a long look, respect and admiration intertwined, and from there on we do not have long pauses with scarce probation questions anymore, but smooth and time-killing conversation about everything.

He tells me that most parts from those ancient books are based on their Norse myths; he retells me some of them -- with a sincere passion, which betrays him to be the real expert in them.

"...and Sauron's Ring also does have our origin. We have the legend about this ring of Nibelungs, the personification of ultimate evil. It is believed, that this ring was created by the powerful sorcerer, the dwarf Alberich Niblung, who wielded the power to transfer part of his entity into the ring, and thus he awarded that ring with the power of intelligence. It is said, that the Ring then destroyed it's creator, and now it appears in our world from time to time, and with itself, it brings the enormous ordeals for the people, for it's task is to destroy everyone and everything..."

I both listen, captivated by the story and the fire in his voice, and try to remember that exact moment, when I got the feeling I knew him for all eternity. And I fail to remember. Perhaps there was no such moment at all. Perhaps I knew from the moment I saw him, that in his company I will be free as never before, that he is as natural part of me as breathing. And guess what? I don't care about it anymore, neither do I hold my feelings, nor choose my words. No sense, like there is no sense to wear a protective mask, when being alone with myself.

"Dwarves," I say, when he is done with his gloomy but beautiful tale. "I've heard that they still live in the mountains of Asgard...maybe next to your own home?"

"No, they don't," he shakes his head.

"Alright, that was a silly question," I say, but he continues:

"Dwarves do not live in Rogaland mountains anymore. They were pushed North by the trolls. These two folks always fight each other, and in our parts the victory was for the trolls. So now only they occupy the mountains."

This sounds like a sequel to his myths -- who could believe that such magic and fantasies exist nowadays? But I know he is serious; and yet, I cannot resist to banter him, tenderly:

"And there are elves, fluttering from one flower to another and dancing with the butterflies and tooth fairies in the full moon..."

"Elves dancing with the butterflies?" he looks at me with an amused smile. "Where did you get that from? Elves are a very serious folk, they seldom waste their time on things like that, although they are extremely gifted in arts and music. And no way they can flutter. In fact, they look very much like beautiful humans, and can only be distinguished by their eyes and the way they talk. Their burden of predestined immortality gives them that special look, and their age is always reflected in their eyes. At least that is what my grandmother says. Myself, I have never seen an elf -- we call them the alve, by the way -- they are rare in human domains; and who are tooth fairies?"

"Never you mind. Just another small ingredient of the worldwide mythology. They are probably extinct by now. It seems that Asgard is the only place in the world, where fantasies and magic survived."

"I never knew another world, I mean, without fantasy," he says. "That's an ordinary world for me, and what is mystic for you, is reality for me. I'm used to supernatural things, and I am not concerned about the stuff like the disturbing forebodings..."

"I have those, too," I follow the line. I would never admit to anyone, that sometimes Saori Kido wakes up in cold sweat, haunted by the nightmares that look frighteningly real -- like some other life of mine I am ignorant about. But he doesn't count, he's not anyone.

"It's like the feeling, that you have some other life that you don't know about," he proceeds. "Sometimes I feel so clearly, that I am somewhat incomplete..."

"...and that there are certain things you must know about; sometimes, you nearly manage to get them, catch the running..."

"...remembrance on it's tail, but it slips away again, leaving you anxious..."

"...but eager to search again, and feeling sure that sooner or later you will make it..."

"...yes, will find that mysterious haunting something..."

"...which feels like a certainty of some events that already have happened to you earlier, and now you run in circles..."

"...that can be broken only, when you'll find out, finally, what you are looking for."

Neither him nor me are surprised by the discovery, that we share the same thoughts, and are able to complete each other's words, precisely knowing what the other means by saying that, and what will be said next. It is like it must be.

"Maybe..." he says and stops.

"Maybe..." I say and stop at the same moment. We take a look at each other -- a thorough and exploring look, like we see each other for the first time, our eyes locking together and unable to let go; and I know what he is going to say now, like he knows what I am thinking about -- that perhaps it is ourselves we are looking for, perhaps we are craving for each other all that time. No -- it definitely is like that, and now, when we found each other, the forebodings will fulfill and the obsessions will go away, because we are complete again, and the anxiety will stop, since together we are strong enough to resist the whole universe, if it decided to go against us, we are afraid of nothing, we are one...

The earlier Saori would snort 'What a crap!' and would do anything to break the mesmerizing spell. But the current me is sure that this is the right thing taking place, and this can't go differently at all.

But the cynical rationality of that previous Saori finds the perfect replacement in the person of Julian Solo. This guy is probably designed to spoil my life.

"Lady Saori?" I hear the content disbelief in his voice; he comes from the opposite side of the bank, still in the same flashy clothes he wore for the party. What is he doing here? He didn't give me an impression of some romantic, who can be touched by the moon path on the silvery sea.

"What an unexpected yet pleasing meeting!"

"Is it, Lord Julian?" I reply in my coolest voice. Julian evidently does not see Syd. How does Syd do his invisibility?

But when he wants to, he can be very well noticeable. Faint trembling in the air, and Julian freezes into place. I glimpse at Syd -- he did not change his posture, even didn't move, but now he can be no way ignored. No way. Like the tiger in the jungle, ready for the jump, the tiger, full of deceptive sloth and silent predatory menace.

"Oh, now I see," however, Julian gets a grip on himself almost instantly. No wonder, considering all that I've heard about him, and even was a witness to tonight. "Syd of Rogaland, county's heir, the future only owner of the thousands of square miles of frozen land, mountains and useless fjords. Now I see, lady Saori. My congratulations."

"On what, lord Julian?" -- that's me. Syd does not award Julian with any answer, just does a very reserved dry bow.

"On your good choice, lady Saori. I really should understand from the beginning that, with your wealth, it is not vitally important for you to have more of it. But the title of countess with thousands of generations beneath it must be really tempting. That does an impression, doesn't it? You have almost everything, save the flashy title, and now you'll add this prize to your collection. How very well-considered of you," Julian's every word is dripping with the poisonous sarcasm, but he doesn't hit the target. Moreover, he looses in all fronts.

Poor Julian burns with green envy to Syd's ten miles high genealogy tree, how funny. He has everything that he wants, save the recorded ancestors -- everyone knows that piracy stands behind his family's treasures -- and today his self-esteem received a serious kick in the butt in the form of my refusal. Thus now, seeing me with someone, in whom he notices only the pure pedigree, he makes the conclusion. Utterly wrong one. Indeed, truthful is saying: 'Everyone decides about the others from the point of own corruption'.

I'm utterly careless about what Julian thinks about me, but I feel a strange pity for him, so I say, honestly:

"Julian, some nobody you are."

He jerks back, not because of the meaning of my words, but because he can't find in them what he expected -- the anger due to the insult taken. Nothing but a tender compassion, and this crushes him finally.

"Well, then let me not keep you any longer, lady," I have to pay my respects, he is fighter enough to accept his defeat with dignity. "Lord," he bows to Syd, not even trying to conceal the burning hatred in his eyes. Poor Julian, some bristly Asgardian snatched your chosen toy? An unforgivable crime indeed, and I know the code of laws of such julians -- crimes like this are never forgotten. If Julian was a pirate like his ancestors, I would start worrying about Syd seriously. 'Sooner or later, I'll remind you this, and you can already start feeling sorry for being born' -- Julian radiates, and Syd no doubt sees that.

One brief moment, my heart fills with such a sudden ominous horror, I fear...no, I know that Julian will keep his unsaid promise, and I want to scream, to warn Syd to take Julian's threat seriously -- but it lasts only some puny part of a second, and is gone before I manage to memorize it. Maybe that was only that stupid exaggerated worry, which is said to be a typical womanish trait (now, how I understand those mothers who constantly are filled with the craziest fears regarding their children); after all, Syd doesn't look easily scared, and sure thing he can protect himself.

Julian leaves the place, not in a hurry, but not deliberately slowly either. He does not want to look weak in front of who he counts from now on as his enemies -- us. I look at his retreating back, Syd does not, but somehow he senses, when Julian disappears out of range of sight and hearing.

"Fishy guy," he states.

"Yes," I laugh. Julian really gives the impression of some slippery creature out of the deep sea.

"Beware of him. It occurred to me, that he is not an easily forgiving type. You are in his black list now, and I'm more than sure that he'll use any possibility to get at you. Be careful."

"Don't worry, I can look after myself alright," I say, thinking on Syd's words and feeling how my dislike towards Julian grows. He already revenged on us, in fact -- by breaking the spell, which cannot be restored. The night is over, the glow of the rising sun cannot be ignored anymore. What a shame.

"The night is over," Syd says. "What a pity. Summer nights are so short here."

"Yes", I agree, my voice is slightly trembling. The nights are cold here as well, but I notice this only now.

Syd notices that as well, since he removes his green sweater (only now I manage to notice that he has changed, and is in his punkish outfit again -- in the name of all the female population on Earth I envy him this trait to look naturally perfect in any clothes, as natural as a cat wearing it's own hide) and hands it to me.

"Thank you," I say, putting it on. The sweater is filled with the warmth and some distant mild scent. His warmth, his scent. I feel at home.

"The night is over," he repeats. "Sad, isn't it? The new day is dawning, the old life is returning, carrying the same old duties along. To the land. To the family."

"To the company. To the employees." I take the second part. I have no choice but to agree, however reluctant I am. The magic of this night is undeniably over, and both of us sense that. "To reality."

"And fantasy," he flashes the sly smile.

"Fantasy..." I say, distantly. "How I would like to see the world of the living fantasy..."

"Then come and pay me a visit," he says, enthusiastically, green sparkles igniting again in the rays of the dawning sun.

"Why not?" I reflect his playfulness. "I come to you, and then you must have to pay a visit back. To see the material world with no fantasy."

"A deal," he winks, impishly, and extends his hand to shake. The shake of hands means -- in our freshly appeared world just for the two of us -- that we must keep our promises. The serious custom comes out so mocking with us, but this is how things should be -- it's the custom, first to be created, of our little private universe.

When I come back, Tatsumi is on pins and needles. He buries me under an avalanche of questions, from which I bother to answer none. All the way home I feel his worried look on me. Obviously, he is tormentingly guessing, what I have done, and more important -- whether anything indecent happened to me. And I can bet my head, that he even cannot imagine, that it was I, Lady Saori Kido, who made a shameful act of indecency by kissing the man first.

And what should I do? Those Norsemen are too reserved and funnily shy in such moments, and I wanted this to happen. So, following the 'new independent Saori' line which started on that day, I made the first step without any doubt, because I simply wanted to. And later, he was exactly like I knew him to be.

* * *

When I saw him next time, I was already changed. No more Saori, from now on -- Saori-Athena. The one, who experienced much more than she wanted to, who got involved into the cruel games of adults without even being asked. I survived, but what had happened, changed me forever.

Still, some parts of me stayed unchanged, though -- because when I see him now, all the creepy memories dissolve, taking the reflections of my new life altogether. I feel the same little Saori, who always knew that he would keep his promise for sure; and my first thought is, 'It was my turn to come to you first, but I'm dead happy that you broke the order'.

But he looks at me wrongly. Not like he used to. Nothing at all like that. And only then I notice, thanks to my divine part, his eerie uniform and the sign of death on his forehead.

Sign of death is Saori's word. Athena doesn't need to transform her divine senses into the symbols that humans can understand, but Saori needs that. It's the only way for her to cope with her freshly declared divine origin.

The person, who has that sign, is lost to this world. The sign indicates, that the signed person will die very soon; but not just that.

Athena is a goddess, and she can do miracles, like granting lives. But the signs of death indicate the boundaries of the restricted territory. She has no power on those, who are signed. It is strictly forbidden for her to meddle in the signed destinies, and that is the kind of prohibition she cannot cross, even urged by rebellious Saori, who still likes to break rules. It is not that Athena is not allowed to meddle. She cannot. Simple.

As Athena, I do not need the sense of vision to recognize the designated people. As Saori, I see those signs -- for some reason -- like bright red dots, that usually are caused by the guns with laser targeting system. I've seen many of them, too many; some of them still haunt me in my nightmares.

Two ice statues in the cold majestic Temple. One is designated, another is not. Why, I scream, why? What's the difference? Why one must stay dead, and why this one? And the flat, gravestone-heavy answer: because.

A blur exposes into another picture. Two bodies collapsed in a bed of roses. Red sign on the forehead of the most beautiful creature I've ever seen. Fading, but still present. The grim warning: don't you dare! I obey.

The man, still alive. Gloating. Confident in his power. And all I can do is to frown, painfully, because the glaring, pulsating red sign is so bright that it makes my eyes water, and I know, that no matter what I will do next, his time is unquestionably over.

Seiya has got one, too, by the way. Faint one yet, but no less inevitable. Sometimes, in especially malicious mood, I toy with the transferring in my imagination of his sign onto the forehead of Jabu, who of course has got none. Jabu is confident for years, that sooner or later his charming personality will win him the rich brat Saori with all her millions, and he will put his feet warm under my table. He's dumb enough to keep these expectations even now, when I'm uplifted to the messiah status. I despise him. But he has no sign.

And now, Syd. My Syd. It awkwardly seems, that the criteria of the sign to appear is my care about the given person. It is so screamingly unfair -- and I am here to fight all the unfairness in this world. What a cruel irony -- this unfairness I cannot fight.

Everything is happening like in a dazed daydream. Syd is pretty much the same like I saw him the first time -- the same haircut, the same grace, with which he wears that freaky armor, the same coy smile. The one 'but' -- his eyes are utterly different. Not just the green sparkles are gone, the eyes themselves look hollow and dead. And the sign of death burns over them.

Who did this to you, Syd?

We exchange some words, I don't know what I say and can't hear his -- I am not even aware, when he dashes at me, his fingernails transforming into the sharp claws, like in a bad case of LSD hallucination -- and the time stretches into eternity.

His eyes meet mine -- now, they do not seem totally empty. Black desperation, horror, locked scream 'I don't want to!'

Who did this to you, Syd? Who?

He, likely, reads that in my eyes. The reluctance struggles, and finally breaks free; his hand slows, until it stops inches from my throat, but I am not aware, neither do I care. I'm pleading, don't know to whom, but know what about. Let him get his true self back. Please.

The tiny green sparkle appears, flickering; his lips part, and I perfectly know what he is going to say -- 'The hell with duty, the hell with the world. I missed you so much, and you can't imagine how dead happy I am to see you again. Oh, and my apologies for this pathetic drama', and then I will say, 'This? I barely noticed...'

Shun's chain flies out of the void, wrapping around Syd's hand, and the green sparkle extinguishes. Drop dead, Shun, I'm so enormously happy to see you alive, but please drop dead. Why did you choose such a wrong time? Why did you have to spoil everything?

Then, Seiya emerges, knocks Syd down and turns to me with that kittenish grin on his face. Despite my wish to throttle him, I am extremely happy to see him. I cannot help liking this boy.

Syd apparently is happy to see him, too. He came here to fight, but he couldn't fight me. Now, he's got true opponents, the whole two of them, and is relieved. The dilemma is solved, no matter how bitterly I regret about his decision.

So, he jumps up and gallops towards the forest, taunting my warriors to follow. They do so -- and immediately, Seiya is knocked down -- again, his enormous self-confidence betrayed him. The fear claws on my heart -- is it the time for Seiya's sign of death to fulfill itself already? I rush at Seiya; please, let it not be...

It's not. Seiya is fairly alright and rattled -- such things always kindle his resistance and urge him to fight. When I lift my head, Syd is not here, Shun chased him into the forest. Although it is a question, who chased whom.

I can appear in the battlefield in a split second. I am, after all, a goddess. But I am not supposed to. The gods must never be in a hurry, they have to keep their dignity, their appearance must be filled with the divine tranquility and importance. Not a big difference, compared to the behavior of well-bred noble ladies, I think. Just the one -- I cannot break this rule. Goddesses are even more chained creatures than rich girls are, and much more obedient.

I miss the moment, when Hyoga and Shiryu appear at both my sides, and now we, all three, are marching steadily, but without a hurry, towards the suspected battlefield. They are anxious to rush there and help their friends, but they cannot. They accompany their goddess. The rules must be followed.

Three people against my Syd now -- I sense Ikki's presence. Of course, he could no way leave his brother in danger, but that is not him who opposes Syd right now and feels like an equal match.

Seiya. Versus Syd. One doomed man confronting another. Two people I really care about. Two signs against each other, racing towards the finish, the meaning of which only I understand. How I wish I don't.

Here they are, Syd and Seiya, facing each other -- Syd, nature's grace, how those claws fit him -- and Seiya, with his deceptive teenage clumsiness.

"Stop this!" I shout. Or I think I do, all that comes out is a mere whisper. However, it is heard -- Syd turns to me, and it seems minutes to pass, until he notices my two companions.

And again, the cordial relief radiates from all his pose. He is outmatched. That is a perfect chance to get away from here.

"I see," I hear him saying. "It seems that it gets hot here. Anyway, my mission here is over -- I passed the message, now let me bid farewell...no, 'See you' sounds more appropriate. Now it's your turn."

And he disappears, soundlessly as he got here, followed only by Seiya's estimation on him -- 'Coward!'. And I stay there, dazed and lost. My warriors look at me, respectfully and with expectation, which they yet do not dare to disturb me with. They respect the thoughtfulness of their goddess, the goddess, who, according to them, I bet, is deeply concerned about the new possible threat to the world.

Partially, they are right indeed, but how they would be stunned, could they see what my heavy thoughts were about...

And here I am, standing on the hostile coast of Asgard, faithful to my promise to Syd about visiting him. He kept his, I keep mine, isn't that touching? Oh yes, it is, I can barely strangle the tears of excitement, but why are those tears so bitter tasting?

My warriors cannot see me crying. The goddess arrived to investigate the possible threat of Asgard to the remained world. That's how they see it, but little nasty Saori jeers from her corner of the mind. She knows the real reason.

The world can be very well protected from Athena's Sanctuary, and definitely much more effectively than from Asgard. In Sanctuary, Athena is undefeatable -- she draws her power from it, she is connected with that land with an inexhaustible vein. Asgard, however, has its own gods, who are as hostile to the foreign divine origins as Asgardians themselves to other people. They are strong, they are merciless and cruel, and they are on their own territory, which gives them the same advantage as Sanctuary gives to me. I must be a real fool to come here, weak as almost any ordinary human with miserable power, where the lands will support my possible enemies and will do their best in weakening me even more.

But there is no Syd in Sanctuary. I couldn't discover, what has happened, and help him, from there -- and so I am in Asgard. That is the only reason, and if anyone will say it is a pathetic one, then that one knows no value of life.

I feel the familiar aura coming closer; Hyoga -- he volunteered to do some scouting in this land before my arrival. I agreed, of course. I owe these boys much more than I will ever be able to repay. No need to let them know, that in fact they are just wasteful pawns in a big game of omnipotent forces, and that their Goddess would do without them equally good as with them. After all, their duty is all that they have.

Hyoga appears now in my field of sight. He is not alone -- some girl follows him, hastily, and when they approach us, she straightforwardly addresses me:

"You are Athena, aren't you?"

I nod, silently. It is not that difficult to clear it out -- I'm the only female in the group.

"Please," she puts her hands together, like for a prayer. "Please, save my sister!"

And she feverishly starts to explain to me, what's wrong with her sister and why she must be saved, but I do not hear her.

Something followed Hyoga and this girl -- and now, that something is nearly here. Athena trembles in almost hysterical awe; in such moments I painfully feel that I'm split in two, since Saori still cannot understand anything. What's so terrible in that oncoming power? Why Athena is so filled with fright, which is far beyond the awareness of being stranger in the strange land? After all, I did well once, in the recent battle, which was devastating, yet I endured. What is going to happen now, if I almost forgot why I came here and began to worry, very seriously, about all humanity -- like, as a matter of fact, I am supposed to do?

And suddenly, the oncoming menace takes a swift acceleration and falls on us with the full crushing pressure; now, not only for Athena, but for everyone it is impossible to ignore it anymore.

There is nothing human in it. The force that came for us, is so alien, that it cannot even be called evil. It is beyond any boundaries of definition. Like a human and a goddess I unmistakingly sense, that it came here to annihilate -- and the most frightening thing is, that neither it carries any cruelty, nor hostility towards us -- no emotions at all. It only wants everyone and everything to be gone -- and gives no reason for that.

And to think, all this radiates from the fragile, gracious girl on the horse...what's wrong with this world?

She stops her horse and just stands there, unmoving; the divine vision of Athena, which somehow protests against looking at her, hinders my human part to examine her as well. All I see is a dark outline, filled with the color of pure devastation, however funny this description may sound. Athena sees the world differently, and there is no choice for me but to accept what she offers.

Instead, I can see her escort very well.

I have never seen so much flawless specimen of the human race's male part collected in one place. All as one, they look like the prize-winning masterpieces of selective breeding, like the superb combination made of the collected, analyzed and processed girlish dreams. Even the gleaming signs of death on the foreheads of each one don't spoil the impression.

Syd is there, too. He stands, quietly, covered by the -- protective? -- draining? -- aura of concentrated destruction, the red sign flickers like a hideous third eye. And then I realize, how much I hate that apparition on the horse, the undoubtful reason of Syd's and the others' close death -- and the only one, who doesn't have the sign herself.

She answers with the poisonously blue ball of her power, which I dodge amazingly easily. Something hinders that ultimate power from declaring in full. I can't say I regret about it.

Equally easily she shatters my own reply to her, and our mute dialogue of expressing what we think about each other, continues.

Our escorts content themselves with eye-to-eye battles. Not all of them -- my attention is suddenly drawn by some warrior from the opposite camp -- he is still like a statue, only his eyes, amazingly blue and pure, like melting ice on the lake in a sunny spring morning, is fixed on something in our side.

That girl, who came with Hyoga, I follow his eyes. Who is she to him, and how could she ever leave him, is she stupid or blind?

No, she is not. She only cares about her sister more than about anyone in her life, and I suddenly understand, that her sister can't be anyone else but the rider girl.

The futile exchange of deadly compliments stops, Blue Eyes remembers that he may be watched and puts the mask of a bored uninterest, and the rider girl starts speaking.

She speaks to her sister, ignoring my warriors and me thoroughly, but soon it becomes impossible, since the girl, likely, rejects her majestic sister and takes our side. I'm not that easily ignored, it seems.

"Congratulations," the rider bows, ironically, towards me. "You made my sister betray me and our people."

"I did? No, it is you who betrayed your people, and for this, you deserve to burn in Hell forever!" I mean every word I say, and notice, how Seiya squints at me, surprised. I bet that he never expected me saying anything stronger than 'Poot!'. Well, maybe now I'll slightly rise in his eyes.

The rider girl seems insulted -- the megalomaniacs always take everything very seriously -- and fix her hair in short, nervous movement.

Which lets me notice the ring on her finger. And now I already know, where the destruction force comes from.

Syd told me about it once...but I recognize it not only because of that. Athena sees it not for the first time, that I feel for sure, but I still cannot remember all the details. I should, I really should, the answer is so close, yet slips away...

But there is no time for the guessing games. I am not that girl I used to be before. Athena has her inevitable responsibilities, and they are a much better prison for disobedient Saori, than all the customs that form True Lady's Behavior. And it is Athena, who steps, majestically, onto the narrow rock bridge, where the next world-saving should be performed from, and it is Athena, who breaks the bridge after her, so that her warriors will be freed of hesitation and begin to do that only thing they are effective in.

But it is Saori, who closes her eyes, because she doesn't want to look at the enemy side and see Syd with the sign of death -- no, she wants to memorize him, like she saw him the first time -- the nonchalant youth with sparkling eyes. Nor does she want to see her own warriors, because one of them will kill Syd, and as she doesn't know who exactly that will be, she avoids looking at all of them.

And then there is only cold. Time passes...it has to pass, after all, although I am not able to follow it's flow, but the time-pass is one of the inevitable things and cannot be cancelled. Just like signs of death.

The faint feeling of something weird happening, something that cannot take place but nevertheless it does, forces me to open my eyes. Strange, I manage it easily -- in such biting cold I seriously expected my eyelids to get frozen over my eyes.

On the edge of the cliff, a few steps from me, there sits a man, feet down the abyss, and smiles at me in a friendly manner.

"Hello," he says. "Long time no see. You look notably beautiful."

Who's that? I turn to look at the coast -- nothing has changed, nobody miraculously rebuilt the bridge. How in hell did he get here and who's he anyway?

"You don't remember me?" he asks, apprehensively, and on these words I do remember. Perhaps like hunger is said to catalyze the activities of a human brain, cold does the same with the divine minds.

"What do you want, Loki?"

"So much for 'Hello, I'm happy to see you too'", he makes a pouting face, but it fails to look convincing. Tiny imps of humour, jumping in his eyes, always betray him. "Anyway, I'm here just to keep you company. It must be boring here."

"Duties seldom are captivating," I say. He waves his hand, dissipatedly.

"Don't wear yourself out, it is not necessary. You'll need your full power for later, believe me," his gaze gets serious and for some brief moment I believe to see compassion behind some weary knowledge, but it instantly fades away.

"Ah." And I was guessing, why I manage to freeze those cursed icebergs so easily. Of course, with the support of such a powerful local god...

"It is not me," he says and sniggers, disrespectfully. "Never liked the hard work, me. There're a bunch of blockheads good for nothing else but keeping an eye on this fridge business, when it goes critical. No need for me there. I have a different task."

"I remember." I really do. Everything, now. Including our old agreement to help each other in the current situation. "How is you plan going?"

"Perfectly! Can it be different, if I created it?" he awards me with a smug grin. "Here, look," he points his finger towards some piece of void in front of us, and the outline of the sublime tri-colored bridge emerges, slowly. "Bifrost."

The Nordic rainbow, the bridge to Valhalla. So what?

"You just look, alright?"

Some figure appears on the end of the bridge, near to us -- a young man, short and delicate. His eyes of greenish-yellow color would perfectly fit the most savage tomcat in the village, but not such a subtle guy. He looks around, confusedly, until he notices us, and his eyes flare with a mix of hatred, realisation dawning, and finally, resignation. Ironically, he bows to my companion.

"Alright, I admit it: you're the boss, I'm the fool. Now what?"

"Go on, run along, don't crowd the passage," Loki says, benevolently, and I catch a shade of respect in his voice.

"Mean clever bugger," he says after the fading figure. "I got kind of attached to him. Too bad it was predecided, poor devil..."

But I do not listen. Another figure appears in front of us. The unmistakable green sparkles in the brown eyes and the messy green hair.

"Hello," I swallow the choking lump in my throat. "What a...surprise, isn't it?"

"No, it's not," he objects. "I just thought, how nice it would be to see you again before I die, and here you are. And guess what? I've found it! I've found what I was looking for all my life!"

"I am very happy about you," I say, and that is true.

"I know you would," he nods, seriously. Then the concerned frown appears on his face, and I hear him muttering 'What is it now...damn, I still cannot go. No, I can't...not now...and I won't'. He takes a step back, but strikes against some invisible barrier. 'So, like this? But whatever, I will go back. I must', his voice is full of grim determination. But the invisible bonds are strong enough to not let him free, and he is slowly pushed back, although he fights, ferociously for every inch.

"Poor thing. What a tormenting way to go," I hear Loki saying, and this is the last drop, I can't restrain myself anymore.

"Do me a favor," I say to Loki. "After all, you owe me for involving me in the dirty games of yours."

"I cannot do what you want, and I mean it," Loki looks at me apologetically. "You know that by yourself."

"I'm not asking for that," it's no need to remind me the inevitability of the red sign yet another time. "Just let him die happy. That's all."

"Oh dear, do you imagine what a trash I will get from my one-eyed buddy for this?" he sighs, pretentiously. I don't feel even the slightest mercy for him. "You know that I can never resist you, and now you shamelessly use my weakness. Let it be."

"If so," I say, "then please spare me from seeing all that."

"As you wish," Loki sounds surprised. "I thought you want.."

"I don't." I cut him, flatly, and the intimidating bridge dissolves.

"It's time for me to go, too," Loki stands up and stretches himself. "The end is close, I have to play my part. And you...take care of yourself."

"I always do," my last words reach just the emptiness around me. Loki is gone.

It will be over soon, he said. That's good. Soon I'll take my boys, all alive, thank goodness, and leave this cruel place. The sooner the better.

But I will come back one day. One bright day, I will knock at the gates of the fortress, where the devious gods pass their time playing their rotten games, and I'll claim Syd back. Or even the better idea -- I'll trade him into Jabu. That would be a shameless trickery, but I still am Saori, the merciless dealer, and it would serve them right to cheat on them, because they owe me a lot.

As well as I owe Syd, that's why I must retrieve him back -- I hate having open debts.

After all, I have never given him back his sweater.

The End


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