A small excerpt connected to "Stardust Terra"
(A story currently in progress by Kaidona)


I have been wandering for a good while now. My feet have left a trail in the white powder blanketing this frozen wasteland so long that I can no longer see where it begins. I feel so cold; my face is numb. My hands hurt and my stomach pierces with a soreness I cannot describe. I stare blankly at the nonexistent path before me as my pace turns to that of a half stumble. I don't know how long this storm has been blowing in my face, but it's been enough that my pale icy blue hair is stiff at the bangs and ends from the cold. I have been searching deep into my memory as I walk, trying to recall what had been my activities the night before. The chaos dragon scar burning in my back throbs in a way that tells me what I fear may be true. I feel a violent shiver running through my body and I wrap my cloak tighter about myself as a vicious gust of wind blows past my ears with a deafening howl. I blink once, the wind's cold is drying my red shadowed grey eyes so badly that it burns, and I narrow them to almost a squint, finding it hard to see anything through the snow being whipped around in the air.
I lift my head slightly to what I believe are sounds that cannot be created by this storm. The sounds... they sound like a child... almost like the sobs of a little girl. I pause and listen as the sounds are carried to my ears on the wind and I stare into the hazy distance in search of the source. I find myself to believe that there is, in fact, a little girl out there and that she is crying. I gather up what little of my strength I have left and continue through the snow at a steady walk, following what I think are soft muffled sobs. In the distance, my eyes focus onto a small dark form moving slowly towards me, the upper half convulsing with an occasional cough between wails. I watch it as my pace begins to slow. It does not seem to notice me as I pause; a four foot distance between it and myself; and I tilt my head very slightly. I realize how stiff my body has become during my time out here and I almost cannot do it. I shift my head back slowly, still watching the child, and blink once as the little thing bumps into me.
I stare down at her as she looks up at me. She must be young; she barely reaches my waist in height. Something is strange about her... she is dressed like it's the middle of spring and doesn't appear to be nearly as cold as I am. She is looking at me strangely; my face must be tinged blue from the cold by now. She wipes at her pretty violet eyes, brushing the tears from her cheeks, and sniffles. She is still very mobile; perhaps she is a little ice mage; but even the ice mages can feel cold in weather like this.
I open up my cloak and a vicious shivering courses through me, the cold winds seeping through the bloodied bandaging around my stomach. I glance down at it, seeing that the slashes in my side and the impaling and shot wounds through my stomach area are still bleeding pretty badly. I reach out to the little girl with my right hand, hoping that she thinks nothing of the bandaging wrapped around it and across the palm. The blood is visible there now; like a large blotch in the middle of my palm and on the back of my hand; both completely parallel with each other. I'm still not sure how it got there. Someone must have shot right through my hand. It looked like the bullet entered through my palm and came cleanly out the back. It is still pretty painful; the cold only makes it worse, but my hands aren't very stiff; I've been keeping them under my arms against my ribs.
She looks at my hand then stares up at me, her eyes confused, and hesitates, tugging lightly at the hem of her short sleeved shirt.
I blink once, not daring to try to smile; my face is frozen into a cold neutral expression, and I hold out my other hand. It too is bandaged in the same fashion as my right, but the blood seeping through tells of a different wound. It shows of a very deep gash in my left palm, starting just above the thumb joint and slicing across to just below the pinky. The wind blows my tattered red lined black cloak from over my arms, exposing my forearms to the burning cold. As quickly as the wind had blown in my face, it changes direction, blowing forcefully on my back so suddenly that it almost knocks the breath out of me. I fall onto one knee, seemingly forced over, and begin to cough violently, feeling my chest rattle with each harsh burst.
I'm not sure exactly what happened, but next thing I know, I feel something small press up against me. I look down and see the little girl huddling close to me. Her cheek is against my chest and her soft blue hair is over her shoulders. Her chin length bangs don't seem to be moving; they must be stiff like mine. I take hold of the edges of my cloak as they flutter at my sides and pull them down as I wrap my arms around her. She shivers a little; I almost can't tell because of how badly I'm shivering. This seems strange... almost like I've met this girl before... she seems oddly familiar... like I've felt her warmth once already....
I stay there, shielding her from the harsh icy winds as we both take warmth from each other. I remain silent for a good while, looking down at her and making sure she doesn't touch the hilt of my sword or it's sheath -- lest her skin freeze to it and she become stuck. I lift my right hand and gently touch my fingertips to the back of her head, nudging lightly.
She lifts her head upward and looks up at me, the look on her face asking me what I want.
I lean down, lowering my face closer to hers, and open my mouth as much as it will allow. "What are you doing out here, child?" I ask her gently, my deep velvety voice amazingly unhindered by the stiffness of my face.
She stares up at me, her lip pulling back as her face contorts, and looks behind herself momentarily, turning back and staring up at me again. "I-I'm lost... I-I don't know where I am..." She sniffles, her eyes welling with tears again, and tenses her whole body, whimpering softly as a powerful gust rams into my back. "I'm so scared!" She buries her face into my chest and cries loudly, her little shoulders shaking with each sob.
Lost... I guess one could say I feel the same now... even though I know where I'm going...
I lower my right hand down to her upper back, patting gently, and lean forward a little, letting my head hang slightly and my chin hover just above her head. "Shh... calm down... Do you know where you live?"
"Murakori... I can't find it..."
I almost can't understand what she's saying, her voice is muffled from my shirt and the wind almost drowns it out. Murakori... that village is home to some of the strongest ice mages... no wonder she is able to be out here in such attire without freezing. If I ever tried that, I would probably freeze within the first twenty minutes... "Do your parents know you're missing?"
"N-no... t-they're out on a-a 'business trip' in the next village."
The winds have died down by now, so I hear her a bit better; her voice is still muffled from keeping her face buried in my chest, though. Business trip in the next village, huh? It takes a few seconds to register in my head that her parents were in the village I was coming from. As it does, it hits me... what I had been doing the previous night. Two nights ago, the old me had taken over; the me from before the Forgotten War; the one I had buried with the Kontonryu after the war -- or so I thought. My old self was trying to assassinate a high ranking couple in the Suishosei study and researching that two nights ago. I think; just before my old self was about to do it, their daughter came into the room looking for a way to get to sleep. Now, even my old self had a soft spot; I could never kill in the presence of a child. I must've put my sword away and brought her back to bed, and then left, postponing my job for later. Apparently when they left the next day, I had followed them to the next village and waited in the shadows until nighttime. This is where my memory is a complete blank; my old self must have taken complete control. By the time I regained control, I was sitting against a tree, covered in blood. I felt pain... a lot of it... and I smelled blood, not just mine; I could smell someone else's. That was where I knew -- I had slaughtered -- there was too much blood that wasn't mine not to be. I didn't know how it happened; all I knew was that I had been shot and sliced up. I could tell from the damage what I had been wounded with; they told that one of the two had a sword... and the other a revolver.
I stare down at the little girl; she's still crying into my chest; and mentally frown, ignoring the vicious burning of the chaos dragon scar on my back. "Who are you staying with?"
"With m-my grandma."
"Your grandmother?" I lean over to the side and nudge lightly at her back. "Come, now. Everything will be all right. I can bring you back to the village."
She lifts her head away from my chest, staring up at me and sniffling, and leans back, lifting both hands and wrapping her arms around the back of my neck.
I carefully lift her out of the snow as she nuzzles her head up into my neck and I try to stand. I didn't realize how stiff my legs had gotten while in that position and I find myself fighting to straighten my knees and mentally cringing for it. I look up to my nonexistent path and blink; my back still burns and my hands are beginning to go numb as I continue on my way with this little girl in my arms.
My body doesn't seem to appreciate the extra weight that I'm carrying with me; it is trying to resist my movements.
After about twenty minutes of walking, I come upon Murakori. It has become dark by now and the weather has calmed.
The lights of lanterns in people's doorways greet me as I walk through the gateway and I see one stray glimmer in the distance fluttering around like a lone firefly. I walk towards it, adjusting the child in my arms a little, and hear the calling of an elderly woman echoing against house walls as I near the flickering bit of light. I step into the Village Square and see the woman looking around the area frantically with a small lantern in hand. I blink once, a little hesitant, and glance down at the little girl. It looks like she's calmed down a bit; her face is still buried in my neck. I look back up and hold up my right hand, index finger pointed upwards as much as the numbness will allow. "Excuse me, ma'am?"
The elderly woman straightens herself out and turns around to face me, lowering her lantern from above her head and holding it out as if to light up my face. "Hm?" She walks up closer to me, holding her dress up away from her ankles to keep the hem out of the snow, and stares at me, studying my face through bangs of long white hair with sagely hazel eyes.
I blink, my face is still stuck in a cold neutral expression but my eyes show my confusion, and I lift my head back as her thin face nears mine. "?"
She stares at me a moment longer, a bit strangely; I guess my face a shade darker tinge of blue now... She quirks a brow, shifting her gaze down to the little girl in my arms, and gasps, stepping back and holding the lantern to the child's face. She stares at her for a few seconds and lifts the lantern away as her face lights up. "My goodness, you've found her!"
The girl lifts her head out of my neck and looks around at the elderly woman. "Grandma?"