Chapter Two:
The Border between Past and Future is Present

The memories played in her head, but to her, she was in her memory…of awesome bliss in the end.

A very dark green tunic hugged her figure, and a sash circled her waistline with the one knife. Her raven hair only lightly bounced against her shoulders, especially when she laughed along with her dear friend beside her. He was older, taller, and wiser like any mentor. While she would laugh, he would only give a small chuckle and watch her skip ahead. His eyes held a sad truth behind the moment's happiness.

Her back was facing him, so she would never the look of his sad eyes…those of longing, yearning to openly love her. He knew that she loved him, too, and it killed him that he wasn't the one for her.

The memory skipped forward. The two were crossing a bridge—the girl bending over the railing to watch the water and the mentor taking a step onto the bridge. Suddenly, the railing disappeared in a matter of moments for her to fall into the fast waters. It was all an illusion that he was too ignorant to shatter.

From her eyes, she kicked as hard as she could. She could hardly breathe as the waters carried farther and farther away.

For what seemed only a decade, she pressed her fingers through the soil of solid ground. Gasping for air, she clung to her savior still, and he held her close.

Even after a life-threatening moment, there was bliss in the end.

Zef brushed his lips against her raven hair, but she pulled away and pressed her lips against his. 'I love you, Nitori,' Zef thought.

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She awoke to the smell of grape and ambrosia, the scents of Amory wine hanging in the room. Slowly, she started her day—the first day after Zef died. Today she could live under the illusion of not being alone for the sake of her job as a living legend. It was hard not to draw so much attention with elite skills and the promise of doing the right thing. Along the way, people recognized her talent and dedication in living the right way, going to her and Zef—when he was still alive—for protection and jobs of overthrowing thieves and pirates.

Her reflection was one of a girl who was…afraid, not like the girl she was when Zef was around. She tore her eyes away from the mirror and proceeded to clean up the room. The landlord was kind enough to give the room to her for free in gratitude for saving his daughter. She disposed of the broken glass settled on the floor from the previous night, keeping as straight of a face as she could.

Too stubborn to eat (Zef was always the one cooking), she held her breath for a minute…

And another minute…

And another minute...until there was a knock at the door. She exhaled and quietly opened the door.

A boy nearly eleven years old stood in the doorway with her landlord behind him. The landlord was old though he could stand straight up and look anyone in the eye. Humbly he requested that she could take care of the boy…at least give him a place to sleep. "You see…His majesty, Prince Arrow, has put up a decree that any neighbor, that is able to, must take care of those who are in need of help. The decree was put up just last night right after you arrived…and the boy showed up in the village early in the morning. I simply couldn't turn him away… I didn't have the heart to, and I certainly couldn't reject the soldiers' commands. I haven't any room anymore either, but…he just needs a bed…I—"

"It's not a problem. He can come with me. I was just about to leave," she said inexpressively. She stepped down to be eye level with the boy, examining his eyes and his face. Something was special about him though she would've taken the boy in regardless; however, it would be an experience to take him with her in spite of the daily danger. 'At least I wouldn't be alone…'

He had eyes that betrayed he had gone through a dramatic change in his life… Politely, he said, "Hello, my name is Corin."

"Nice to meet you, Corin," she said, offering a kind smile, "I'm Nitori."

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One could say that Ulysses was a wizard for lack of better word. Indeed, Ulysses was one who knew what he was doing with strange concoctions and methods of which were rumored to be potions and magic. Maybe they weren't wrong. He lived in a ramshackle house, old and lay to waste. Always busy, he would never even have the time to hire someone who would even try to clean it let alone leave his house.

It was Ulysses, who made Vio believe in the Void. It was his fault that his brother couldn't be found. If he knew how to find the Void, he better know how to come back.

The sun shined upon the snowy town of Sherdivwhy wherein was found Ulysses, probably the only famous person in the community. Any outsiders were assumed to be one of his clients.

Vio banged against the old wooden door. He was lost without Corin, and he had no idea how to get him back. At least he still had the orb, the key to the Void. That was probably the only thing that could get Corin back, so Vio guarded it with his life.

"Ah, Vio!" said an old burly man. "A pleasure to see you again!" said Ulysses as he motioned Vio in. Strong hands and deep voice—it was very hard to believe how an old man could keep going, but Vio decided it was probably because Ulysses knew more in the medical fields than others.

"Ulysses, I lost my little brother. I don't even know where he is…just out of this world." He put his thick coat onto the back of the chair and rolled up his long sleeves. Resting his hands onto the chair, he looked at Ulysses.

Ulysses frowned and then smiled.

"Corin has gone to the other worlds…" said Ulysses with an unnerving grin. He walked forward with superiority like a tiger about to bounce on his prey. "How delightful!" laughed Ulysses. "I always knew that you could do it, Vio… It was so clear in your eyes how desperate you were when you first came to me. I knew you were the one chosen."

Vio, perplexed, said, "What the hell are you talking about?" He staggered back as Ulysses stepped closer.

Lifting the wine bottle off his table, Ulysses gave a last laugh and dropped the bottle to the floor. Making a loud crash signaled for soldiers to appear sealing the exits and any last hopes for Vio. It was all just a set up.

"Give us the Orb, and we'll let you go," Ulysses said. His tone made it clear that he had won.

But, Vio wouldn't give up. He quickly fought through the soldiers, stabbing many a soldier in the leg. Others he wrestled and they crashed against the tables and shelves. The last stood Ulysses with a sure smile on his old face. Vio breathed and stared at Ulysses in horror and disgust.

"Vio, my boy, did you know that there were qualifications to travel from worlds? One can never go by himself and him alone. Being the altruistic hero in this shameful life you lead had given you, a lowly yet fierce peasant, the right to guide your little brother to and beyond the Void…whether or not you knew." Ulysses paused grasping a carefully crafted pottery bowl, intricately designed with holes to look through. He tossed it from one hand to another with a few flicks of the wrists. And, turning his laughing eyes away, he admitted, "But now, a lowly peasant…must die."

Stretching out his hand, Ulysses incoherently mumbled something—a spell to spell out Vio's doom. As a last resort and maybe a last risk, Vio jumped at Ulysses…

But he never got to Ulysses…rather, he found himself in the Void.

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Hardly anyone knew Prince Arrow; hardly anyone tried; hardly anyone dared to. In spite of this, people loved to listen to the rumors of which many believed were truth. Maybe it was because there were other things that were of greater importance…but really it was because the rumors were always better than what really happened.

Arrow accepted the gift from the sorceress for the sake of his soldiers…

The prince's body dissolved because of the strange potion…

A pure heart can get his body fully intact… Give him some time, and he'll set this war straight…

A ghostly hand splashed the water in the wash basin as a growl escaped from his lips. He turned away from his sad reflection, hated to be reminded of his misery. He had forgotten what color his eyes were now, and why…she…liked them. Arrow rolled into his mattress on the cold marble floor. He closed his eyes and sifted through his mind schemes.

Nitori came to him last night—a conference made deep into the night. She hardly ever made an appearance. Whenever she did, it was of the utmost importance. There was only one time she came to the palace, an incident that sent shivers down his spine whenever he was reminded about it. Lightly he pushed off the covers of his bed.

He was stuck in this life—a not-so-strong prince with the heaviest burdens that he couldn't handle. Even knowing such a truth, there were those much better for his job who still expected him to take charge. He did his best because that was all he could give…even at the cost of deteriorating.

Fey slipped into the room from his balcony.

"The decree has been put up, my lord. I brought you something."

"Put it on the nightstand. We need to go over the schedule for tomorrow. Did you send the soldiers to deliver Nitori's message?"

Bobbing her head, Fey sat on the cool marble floor and hung on Arrow's every word.

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The sun glistened brightly against Corin's sandy blonde hair. His forehead glistened with sweat, his face red, too. It was, Nitori observed, as though he never experienced pure sunlight…let alone the ever heat. She didn't understand what winter was…there was no winter in her world as there were no summer in his. It took him awhile to get used to less clothes.

Corin was quite mature for a nine year old because of the tragic past Vio used all of his early years to cover up. Vio brought him to distant friends and relatives once a job was set up. Once the job was finished, they would move again. At times, Corin wouldn't see Vio for weeks…five months at the most. Now five months didn't seem so long anymore, and he did his best to keep strong.

Vio rushed them to the forest and…

"Corin, are you alright?" Nitori asked, "You look awfully pale." She offered a smile, one that betrayed a sad history like his. He nodded his head and looked at her smooth foreign eyes. Midnight black hair was pulled to a loose bun, but hung in delicate disarray.

"How old are you?" Corin asked suddenly.

"Twenty-one," she said, squatting to be eye level with him. The main cobblestone road wound through the village. The sides of the road were only used by women and children going about their own ways. Those who glanced past Nitori did not recognize her. She changed dramatically in one night.

She was different now—raven hair with no purple streaks, darker eyes, and smooth voice.

"You're a year younger than my brother. He's twenty-two." His eyes dazzled with a sense of knowing so much that Nitori was almost taken back with surprise.

Instead she cocked an eyebrow. "Aren't you supposed to live with him?"

"We got separated." Corin looked down thoughtfully and paused. "So…why do you live alone?"

"I lost a friend."

"Oh…" said Corin. Maybe if Vio met Nitori, neither one of them would feel so alone. He liked Nitori a lot. Being around so many people, he had attained good judgment of character. This girl could light up the world with her happiness…if someone was happy with her.

They continued down the road for some time, talking about the sights and what they could do the next day. Loneliness, each knew so well, was something that someone shouldn't feel so often. Life was to be lived, and so they would live.

She relayed her life in plain words, not wanting to make a big deal about her skills. The nine year old would listen with such care. It was amazing how he could be so mature. Somehow, he understood the ways of survival, the consequences of doing the right thing, and the people who mattered the most. He made her laugh by telling tales he could make up and legends that many from his world knew by heart.

"There's another story that my brother Vio told all the time. It's about a Void—"

But two soldiers approached Nitori before he finished. They handed her a letter, which she opened, read, and tore up in five minutes.

"If it's really that important, someone will pick me up from my quarters at precisely seven. You'd better leave now." After the two soldiers ran off, a sigh escaped from her lips. Nitori turned to Corin with a rueful grin. "Let's go back to the inn…are you hungry?"

He nodded after his tummy grumbled.

She laughed. "You can finish your story after we're done eating." He agreed and they raced to the inn for early supper.

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'I'm dead,' Vio concluded floating in the black abyss. 'It's all over. People in the afterlife know what happen to the living, right?' He would know if Corin was alive or dead. Either way, Corin would be okay.

"You're not dead," said a voice behind him.

Zipping around, he saw a stranger smiling ear to ear. He was just a ghost in a black cloak that accentuated his stormy emerald eyes. His spiky hair stood on end adding more character to his appearance.

"Then why do I see a ghost?"

"We're in the Void." The stranger floated forward looking Vio in the eye. "I'm Zef, and you're Vio. You brought yourself here, and no one even knows how. I think that's quite extraordinary, don't you?"

Blankly Vio gawked at the stranger. He was in the Void, and he could go to wherever he wanted to…

"Not quite, my friend," interrupted Zef. "You need some training before you stumble into the wrong world."

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