He turned the radio up just a bit and readjusted the headphones on his ears - and the world just melted away. What was playing - what song, what artist - didn't matter; it was music and more than that, it was a way to escape the harsh realities that waited just outside his tent.
~Why can't the whole world be like this?~ he idly thought to himself, drumming his fingers against his make-shift desk in time to the rhythm of the music. ~Why can't we all just exist moment to moment, without ambition or greed?~
'Because that would be too damned easy,' a voice in the back of his mind taunted. In response, he cranked the volume up just a level more, effectively drowning the distainful presence out.
~Life should be that damned easy... Maybe, someday, it will be...~
Faintly over the music, he heard a tapping sound. Someone had to be beating the wooden block hanging by his tent's flap (an impromptu doorbell, so to say) to get his attention. With an impatient sigh, he turned off the music and tucked the headphones under his bed and opened the tent flap.
An aide stood there framed by the dying red light of the sun. "Umm... sir... I hate to disturb you, but... this came for you today," the young man, little more than a boy, held a letter out to him, "and I... thought you might want it."
The boy was so flustered in his presence that it was almost amusing to see. He accepted the folded sheets of paper, returned the very young man's salute, and slipped back inside his tent.
The lettering was elegant, flowing, and feminine, leaving no doubt in his mind who the note was from.
It's odd, isn't it, that I can still call you that after all this time? I haven't seen you in ages, and if I hadn't heard of some of your more recent escapades, I would have thought you were dead.
So how are you? Don't say you're all right; I know you, remember? You're probably taking horrible care of yourself, aren't you?
I could ask why you haven't written me, but I think I already know why. Just please try to come back in one piece. We're all so worried about you. I'm not going to ask you to come home now; even I realize you won't do that, not yet; but please come back someday.
The pictures that are attached are of my wedding and when my son was born.
It's been three years now. Won't you please come visit someday?
With love and
Ta cherie amie
Just like her to be short, swift, and direct, he mused to himself, taking a seat at his desk and slowly thumbing through the photos. ~How did I know she'd be a beautiful bride?~ Somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind, he heard himself sigh. ~And how did I know I wouldn't be the man beside her at the alter?~
Another knock on the wooden block, and he frowned at the new interruption. ~Can't I have just five minutes of peace and quiet?!~
'No,' that annoying voice snickered. 'Did you think you had earned it or something?' A mental laugh. 'Maa... that's a funny one! You, deserving peace!'
"One of these days," he muttered aloud. "One of these days..." That inner voice just kept laughing. Scowling, angry, and not afraid to show it, he stomped back across the room and yanked open the tent flap door hard enough to rip the cloth just a bit. "What the hells do you --"
That was as far as he got before he felt a small body ram straight into his chest, knocking the air out of his lungs and him off his feet. When the stars stopped dancing above his head and settled into the familiar pattern of the roof of his tent, he slowly raised himself up on his elbows, ignoring how cold the ground was beneath his skin, and glared at the weight straddling his stomach.
Enjeru-kun!" the small woman yelled, somewhere between chirping and singsonging, as always entirely too happy.
Get off of me, Suzu."
Mou, you're no fun, Enjeru-kun!" she pouted, upping her own cuteness factor a few degrees. As if she actually believed it would work.
Quit yelling and get off me." With each word, his voice grew steadily colder and deadlier. She grinned and plopped herself down harder, knocking the breath out of him again. "Suzu, I have a lot of work to do."
"Nothing that can't wait!" He scowled at her, and she only grinned more. "Enjeru-kun wa kawaii!"
How is it necessary for you to yell every time you speak?"
She leaned down to press a kiss on his cheek; leaning back up, her face was as serious as his own. "How is it necessary for you to be mean every time that you do?" She stared at him expectantly, clearly waiting on him to answer. When he didn't, she jumped up off him and hauled him to his feet by the front of his shirt in one smooth motion. "Come on!"
"Come on where?"
"Don't ask questions!" She shifted her grip to his hand, dragging him along behind her, out of his tent and into the dying sunlight. Absently, he raised his free hand to shield his eyes from the coloured light of the sunset that they weren't used to. He could have broken her hold on him at any time, but instead he just humoured the young girl's wishes, allowing her to pull him through the camp that had been set up a month and a half ago. "It's good for morale if you let the guys see you every once in a while, especially when you're not in a snarly mood." She waved at the same aide that had delivered the letter to him earlier, and he returned it as cheerfully even as Suzu continued berating him. "Besides, you've been cooped up in that tent all day! You have to be starved!"
"You finally got him out, eh?" a vaguely familiar voice rang out from close to their left.
Immediately, Suzu started bouncing up and down in place, abandoning her grip on him in favour of clapping her hands in joy. "Miki-kun! Miki-kun!" She started gathering herself to pounce on the dark-haired man then stopped and only hugged him lightly. "You need to be at the healer's, Miki-kun!" she scolded.
He couldn't find it in himself to argue with her pronouncement. The young man looked like he'd been through the worst part of the battle, covered in raw open wounds as he was. But he shrugged off Suzu's hand as if he didn't feel a bit of the pain. "I'm fine, Suzu-chan. I was on my way there, and I just had to see our esteemed leader out in the daylight." He grinned jauntily at the quickly setting sun. "Such that it is." Something in those sapphire blue eyes softened almost imperceptively. "And I must say, it's a n-"
The warning alarm cut off the rest of whatever Miki had been about to say. Abruptly, the entire camp burst into action as everyone scrambled to grab up a weapon. He dimly noted Miki producing a huge broadsword from the gods knew where and Suzu grabbing her weapons of choice for long-range attacks, namely an impressive set of throwing knives, as he slowly pulled his katana from its side sheath.
The gates opened, and a gang of guards hustled in, pushing a bound figure along with them; the gates were swiftly shut behind them. As the sound of them closing resounded, everyone breathed a deep sigh of relief (~Thank the gods it wasn't an attack,~ he couldn't help thinking to himself. ~I doubt they could have withstood it.~) and slowly lowered and put away their weapons, with the exceptions of him and Suzu and Miki as they stared down at the figure slumped on the ground before them. The rough braids of the rope visibly cut into his too pale skin, and a huge bloody mark stood out on one cheek that clearly looked like the toe of a boot. But those dark, dark eyes glared up at them all with such cold fervor, it sent shivers down even his spine.
Resolutely he shoved those feelings away and approached the group of guards. "What did you bring us?"
"One of them." The guard who spoke practically spat the word then did spit on the prisoner, who didn't even seem to acknowledge it. "Thought you might wanna find out their plans, Enjeru-sama. And we found him just waltzing around in the Contested Lands, like he was waiting on us to get him."
The prisoner snorted elegantly, and he couldn't help looking at him closer at him. Black hair that looked as soft silk fell around his shoulders. His eyes were some shade between navy blue and black, a colour that shouldn't be natural in any way. Dark wounds marred the pale, pale expanse of his skin, and surely not all of them could have been caused by his guards; he knew for a fact not a one of them was carrying a whip and that's what some of those looked like. And looking even closer, he decided their prisoner couldn't be over nineteen, tops.
Slowly he knelt down before the youth and softly asked, "What's your name?"
"Why?" A sneer marred his nearly perfect face. "So you can know what name to write on my grave when you kill me? Or would it be for when you torture me for information?"
The same guard cuffed him one. "Don't talk that way to Enjeru-sama!" he ordered sharply. "You want to die that bad, I can arrange for it, you little shit!"
;"That's enough, Samiel," Enjeru interrupted smoothly. "Go back to your posts, all of you." He watched briefly to make certain his orders were followed then returned his attention to the bound young man before him. "What's your name?" he repeated.
"I just want to know," he answered slowly, surprised at the truth behind that simple statement.
"Aku. My name is Aku."
Miki rolled his eyes and leaned against his broadsword wearily. "So the kid's name is 'sin'? Perfect." He cast his eyes to the side to see Suzu practically hopping up and down in excitement. "What's with you?"
"I think Enjeru-kun has a new pet project." She giggled wildly. "This is gonna be so much fun!"
"Why do you think that?"
She looked at him in nothing less than dumbfounded shock. "Don't you recognize the name? Aku is our esteemed enemy, General Yuurei's, son."
8 June 2001
Well, here is the beginning. I'm trying not to give up too much on my characters right away, but what do you think of them? Right now, Suzu and Aku are my favourites!
Again, thanks, Tenshi-chan, for... well... just everything.
See you in the next chapter!!!