~~What Can I~~

The World has been withering away for centuries. A plant blooming for the first time in its life, only to be outnumbered by the hundreds of plants dying in different parts of The World. The World's existence has been dwindling away, as have the lives of other living things. Only in the kingdom of Skylight can the "Savior" arise. The Savior will bring back the life in The World, and bring back what has been lost.

The ground shook, and the glass shimmered and spilled some of its contents on the floor, spreading as people stood up in surprise. "Earthquake," the bartender murmured, as he knelt down to try to wipe the wine off the ground.

The earthquake ended as abruptly as it began. Sighs of relief came in dozens, and the bartender came to a start as a pale hand set a couple of coins on the counter. He looked up to see amethyst eyes staring at him. "The food was good," she said quietly, and turned around and walked out the door.

That earthquake was the first that had happened in that town in fifty years. Rumors circulated in the village as Maya walked through it, opening her purse. She only had fifty-four coins left. She sighed out loud as she heard a woman murmur, "The witches are here again."

The people in neighboring kingdoms had had their own share of mysterious happenings. In fact, there were monsters in the outskirts of the village, but none dared come into the kingdom of Twilight. Twilight was one of the holiest kingdoms around, protected by the Roman-Catholic King Ryou and Queen Cecilia. There was a saying that "Many go out but none come back in", which was true. Many a family had altered the stories and made it that there was a dragon outside Twilight, to keep the children within the boundaries of the kingdom, when, in fact, no familiar people came back in mainly because they had found their fortune elsewhere.

Twilight was a small kingdom, but protected by the prayers of the people, it was unusually safe from most evil and plagues. That was why whenever a strange happening came into their kingdom, the words heard most commonly were, "witches".

Maya's gaze flitted to the ground. Witches. She hadn't heard the word in a long time. Maybe the people were just paranoid. Normal occurrences in other kingdoms such as earthquakes, flash floods, and eruptions terrified the people of Twilight.

Many years before, before Maya was even born, a strange woman came into the kingdom of Skylight, a neighboring empire. Being accommodating, the residents of the kingdom were friendly to the newcomer. But the woman was mysterious and kept to herself. Her long black hair was a rarity in the place, and she rarely showed up in the marketplace.

Months after she stopped showing up altogether. One night, they could hear screams from her house, and bangs on the neighbors' doors at midnight. But the villagers were frightened, thinking something was wrong. But they didn't dare look to see what was going on in that house.

The next day, all was silent. Finally, they rounded up the oldest men in the village to see what was wrong. They checked all the rooms to find nothing. And as they were about to give up, they heard a noise.

Running into the last room, they found a baby with deep blue eyes. She was just staring at them; she wasn't even crying. The bravest of the men, a grandfather of three, walked near him and scooped the baby up into his arms.

Mysteriously, they found the child's aunt living in the village, but far away from most of the houses, nearest to the temple. One day the villagers heard glass break, and when they went into the house, they saw the woman looking in terror at the child when she shouted, "She is not my sister's child! She.she. She is a devil!"

The girl was named Mikaru. She was friendly and made new friends easily-- the complete opposite of her mother.

Maya sighed. There weren't many things she remembered anymore. After that incident.

She rounded a corner and found herself in the alley. The alley was dark, even though it was in the middle of the day. She walked calmly through it, until a teenager rudely pushed her so that she fell on the ground. A "punk", the neighboring towns might call his kind. Her eyes blazing, she said coldly, getting up, "Fools, watch where you are going. You might knock over someone really important." She turned on her heel until a cold hand grabbed her arm and pulled her back. She then found herself face-to-face with a gang--or more precisely, the leader of a gang.

"So, are women feeling important nowadays?" the leader remarked mockingly. "You know the rulers of this kingdom are so preoccupied in their own affairs that they don't visit us anymore. Who are up to them in status, then, girl?"

Maya twitched. "They manage everything within the walls of their palace," she said quietly. "There is no law against being by themselves as long as they rule this kingdom with fairness, don't you think so?"

A smirk spread of one of the others' faces. "Really?" he asked sneeringly, in a nasal voice. "I suppose then that all the problems coming here aren't their fault?"

"You haven't been praying," Maya answered him back. "You walk around here with such flair, ganging up on people and stealing their money. Where's the justice in that? Let go of me," she added finally, and pulled her arm back from his grasp.

She turned and began walking away, until several hands reached out to hold her back. "So, woman, you think you can get out of here so easily?" the leader hissed, holding a knife up and laying it against her neck. "You dare mock us?"

Maya gulped, her skin brushing against the sharp surface of the knife. "I did dare," she croaked out. "I mocked you. Why do you ask?"

"Idiot," the leader said, pulling her around and pushing her against the stone wall. Dust scattered and fell down on them, and she coughed.

"What are you doing, ganging up on a girl?" a cool male voice said.

Maya's attackers turned around, and Maya caught the image of a tall boy with spiky black hair from the corner of her eye. "Fools," the figure said. He then turned to Maya and looked into her eyes, and she felt a searing pain in her heart.

What's he doing to me? she asked herself, as pain ran up to her head. Why does it hurt?

The boy reached out and punched the lackeys one by one, all of them falling unconscious immediately. It came as a start to both Maya and the leader, because he was quite thin. And it was a bigger surprise when in seconds, he knocked down their leader.

The knife fell helplessly on the floor, and Maya kicked the man away from her, feeling a bit uneasy. Her cloak was a bit soiled, but dust wouldn't matter too much. The question was, How did that man do that? The pain had subsided, and she closed her eyes, breathing deeply.

"Are you all right?" the boy asked.

Maya looked up to see him holding out his hand to her. She felt a twitch in her arm, as if her intuition was telling her not to, but she accepted his hand.

"Thank you," she said quietly, as they walked out of the alley. "I'm Maya. Next time I won't go into dark, deserted alleys by myself."

Her crack at a joke brought a small smile to his face. "I'm Satsuki."

Maya smiled a bit at him. "Well, then, thank you, Sa--"

Wait.

There was a burst of light, and a female face appeared in place of Satsuki's, but wearing his clothes. Hey, no wonder he looked like he had something girly on him. "I'm Mikaru," the brown-haired girl said with a smile, shaking Maya's hand, western-style. "You're alright, ne?"

Maya's eyes widened, and her eyebrow twitched. Hey, hold on, rewind a bit, and stop. What just happened? Did Satsuki, the BOY, become Mikaru, a GIRL? Isn't Mikaru that kid? The 'devil'?

Maya's reaction made Mikaru smile sadly. "Ah, you must've heard those old stories." Her voice became unusually low, like a boy's. "The ones which said, 'She is not my sister's child! She is a devil'?"

Maya stared at her. "So, people tell you that?" she asked. "Over here, it's like a ghost story." She then remembered that she was being rude. "I thought that wasn't true."

"It's true, all right," Mikaru said quietly. Her pace went a bit faster, and she said, "My mother, though I never knew her, was murdered after I was born."

"Hey, wait, don't go so fast," Maya said seriously, trying to keep up with her. "Stop running," she said, reaching out and touching her shoulder, and Mikaru turned around and pushed Maya away from her.

"Hey," Mikaru said in a low voice, and Maya noticed that it wasn't Mikaru anymore; Satsuki had taken over. "That story's quite emotional for her," he said, smiling. "How about talking about it somewhere else?"

Her aunt smiled at her niece as she combed her brown hair. "Mikaru," she said quietly, "I'll be in the market for a while, all right?"

She nodded slowly, still staring at her.

"Good." She smiled at her. "I'll be back in an hour."

An hour had passed when she came back into the house. She walked into the playroom, and she dropped her bags momentarily.

"Mi--mi--Mikaru!" she screamed, when she saw what she thought she had done.

On the floor was a round pentagram, and on the floor surrounding it, there was blood. Mikaru was sitting down motionless, staring at the display, and then at her aunt, smiling. When the villagers heard glass break, they went into the house, seeing the woman looking in terror at the child as she shouted, "She is not my sister's child! She.she. she is a devil!"

The sun had now dipped down in the sky; it was sunset. Satsuki had taken her to Mikaru's house; Maya had already settled down on a chair, and when Mikaru's grandmother appeared at the end of the hall, Satsuki disappeared into what Maya supposed was Mikaru's room.

"Hello, dear," Mikaru's grandmother said with a smile as she came into the kitchen carrying a few apples. "Do you want some?"

"Um, no, but thank you," Maya said nervously. She definitely wasn't used to being alone with an old lady--a nice old lady at that--even if she seemed quite hospitable, with the fact that not many houses get a lot of visitors after five o' clock.

"No, no, dear, have one," the lady said, forcing a smooth red apple into Maya's hand. "They're delicious." She smiled very cheerily at Maya that she felt she couldn't refuse. "Um, thank you, ma'am," Maya said, uncertainly, as she lifted the apple up to her mouth and took a bite.

Suddenly she felt a searing pain in her throat. She dropped the apple and began coughing madly.

And that was when Satsuki came out of Mikaru's room. He saw her coughing and the apple on the floor and ran over to her. "Hey, hey, cough it up," he urged. Maya just kept on coughing; her eyes were full of tears already. She had a crazy feeling in her mouth and throat, and then she choked up the apple bit when Satsuki punched her back. Really hard.

"You're okay?" he asked, and she noticed that he was laughing. "Hey, it's not funny!" she shouted in anger and confusion. She looked at the part of the apple she had taken a bite out of and realized that it was rotten.

"You swallowed up a worm, M," he said, his eyes clouding over with tears, laughing. He held up the apple but she had choked up and Maya realized with a start, as she saw the half-eaten worm stuck on the bit, that he was, in fact, telling the truth.

And she also realized that she had eaten a worm.

"EEEW!!" she screamed, running over to the sink and washing her mouth multiple times. "Hey, lady, why did you give me a poisoned apple?" she asked when she was through rinsing her mouth.

Mikaru's grandmother smiled in a clueless manner. "You look like a foreigner, dear," she said. "I supposed that our world-famous apples would be a good treat for a newcomer like you!"

"Poisoned apples are world-famous, ne?" Maya asked loudly, flushing in embarrassment. "Maya, you just picked the wrong one to take a bite out of," Satsuki said. He was roaring with laughter, and when she looked back at him, she realized that he was wearing a frilly pink dress.

Maya's face turned bright red when she realized he actually looked good in it. "Cross-dresser!" she accused, pointing at him and laughing as well. "Oh, man, you actually look good," she said between laughs. "Tell me, are you a girl or a boy?"

Satsuki flushed in embarrassment and anger. "Shut up," he said, tensed. "I'm just doing this so Mikaru will feel better and come out."

Maya stopped laughing and then looked at him with actual sincerity. "You mean it?" she asked. "Tell me the real story, now."

***

Satsuki sat down on the chair across her, putting his arms on the table, folding them. "Mikaru's mother was murdered after she was born," he said quietly. "You see, she was accused of witchcraft, even though it was a false rumor. That's why she was found alone. Her mother's body was found in a canal days later."

Maya nodded, and he continued as Mikaru's grandmother started fixing dinner, even though they were sure she was listening to them as well. "Mikaru's aunt lived in Skylight back then, and she was Mikaru's mom's only living relative close to the kingdom," he said. "A few months after the 'she is a devil' story, Mikaru's aunt died of a heart attack. So M packed up her bags and left.

"When she finally arrived in Twilight, she met her grandmother. At first, Mikaru was just taken in, but everything changed when she was told that she was her grandchild." Satsuki paused, realizing that Mikaru's grandmother was crying at the time. "On her fourteenth birthday, her grandmother gave her a necklace. And that's when I showed up."

"Hold on, Satsuki," Maya said, raising her hand up in the 'student-teacher' style. "You mean you guys weren't together from the beginning?"

"Maya," the grandmother interrupted, her gray eyes looking into the girl's. "Mikaru is the 'Savior'."

There was a long silence as Maya's eyebrows rose so high that they disappeared into her hair. "Pause, rewind, and repeat," she said, confused. "Isn't the 'Savior' person a guy?"

Here Satsuki cleared his throat. "You're quite slow, Maya," he said, smiling. "Who's the guy here?"