767: Moonwalkers (Part 5: A Letter and A Rabbit)
A blue-haired Elf stared at the letter. Letters were normally received with carrier birds. This one had come on a bird, yes, but it was a bird made of magick. It had disappeared as soon as the blue-haired Elf had taken the letter from its leg. When he turned the letter over and saw the seal laid within, he realized whom it was from.
"Wonderful," he sighed.
He stood up from his desk at the height of the Legion's command. The facility was thousands of years old – it had been standing since the City Elves first built the Shainingu Tokai – but it was still holding strong. New soldiers were arriving for training each day, young boys and girls with exceptional talents. His office as Commander of the Legion was in the highest tower of the facility. Getting up here was a workout in itself.
His office was decorated with portraits of the Commanders of the past, some of which had never even set foot in this office due to war keeping them out in the field. They were Elves of every shape and size and gender, each with their own stories written in a tome that the blue-haired Elf kept under guard for himself. All their deeds, accomplishments, and deaths were recorded there, to never be changed again.
Except for one time, not too long ago. Only once had the book been edited, and it had been by the High Elder Bateau's decree that it be done – first the entry for Byet Ishida, the Commander during the time when the Draygoons warred with the Elves and the sky rained ash instead of rain or snow. The first record of his death had stated that it had been by the hands of a Draygoon – now, however, it stated that Imaimaishii had killed him during the battle.
The second record that had been changed was for the blue-haired Elf's own mother, Commander Marya Kitsuho. Firs tit had reported that she had died of wounds in a battle or something of the like; now it stated, like Byet's, that she had died at the hands of Imaimaishii. With Imaimaishii dead and gone, Bateau freely changed the records and rose against Imaimaishii's supporters. He explained the truth and, with the help of the Legion, ensured that nothing of that sort would ever happen again. Bateau had also used that opportunity to lift the exile on his savior, the Elf Yuugata Ishida, though Yuugata hadn't been there to hear of it.
And now the letter.
No word from the former-exile in years, and suddenly there was a letter. To him, too – not to Bateau. To him.
Confused, the first thing he did was go outside his room. Stationed there were two guards in full armor, one man one woman. He turned to his male guard and said, "Send for Ajax and Sicil. Ajaz should be tending to patients in the infirmary and Sicil should be in the yard with the trainees."
The guard nodded and strode off, spear in hand, as always. The blue-haired Elf turned to the female guard and said, "Please, admit them when they arrive, will you?" The woman nodded and stood taller than before, as if to make up for the absence of her partner. The blue-haired Elf went back into his office.
He approached a cage that hung from the ceiling. Inside was a trained bird. Since the beginning of their kind, Elves had always been able to commune with the vast majority of animals. That had made training birds all the easier. He released the bird and it landed on his desk in a flurry of wing and feather. The blue-haired Elf produced a quill, ink, and paper and wrote out a quick message.
"Take this to Bateau," he instructed the bird. It sqwaked at him as he tied the message to its leg. He would have sent the guard to fetch the Elder as well, but that would have taken too long. It was easier this way.
He opened the window and the bird flew out, into the cool morning air. By the time the blue-haired Elf had shut the window, his guests had arrived and were closing the door behind themselves.
"What's the meaning of this?" Sicil, the blue-haired Elf's own cousin, snapped. "Those weaklings in the yard aren't going to train themselves, you know!" Sicil had a head of long red-blonde hair that he kept in a ponytail. His armor was decorated with flames, like the shield on his back. He was one of the few Elves in the Legion to actually use a shield and not rely solely on their well-crafted armor to protect them.
The other Elf that had entered was older than the both of them. Ajax had been readmitted into the Legion after Imaimaishii cast her out years ago. Ajax had been the head physician in the days of Commander Byet Ishida, and she had been one of his closest childhood friends as well. She had short, plain brown hair and wore medical garb – a light tunic and leggings decorated with dust and blood.
"Shut up, will you?" she groaned to Sicil. She turned to the blue-haired Elf and said, "But he is a bit right – what's going on, Commander Istanbul?"
The blue-haired Commander flashed the letter. Sicil cocked his ears at it and Ajax crossed her arms. Finally, Ajax decided, "Little Yuugata?"
"We never get any word from him," Sicil pointed out. "Why would he send a bird to you instead of Bateau?"
"I have no idea, coz," Istanbul told them. "I've sent a bird to Bateau to let him know. I didn't open this yet so I was hoping we could do it together, just to see what's happening. And to correct you, he didn't send it on a bird, per se. At least, not a real bird..."
"He sent it on a magick bird," Istanbul explained. "It didn't linger – he obviously expects no reply."
Ajax snorted. "Sounds like he's doing more than dabbling in his mother's art," she stated. "Anyway; let's see what he has to say. It must be important. I don't think he just wanted to say hullo."
Istanbul found his letter-opener, a small knife good for breaking seals like this one, and slid it beneath the wax. It broke open cleanly and revealed the letter within. Istanbul unfolded it and looked it over with a frown. Yuugata Ishida seemed fond of explanations, so it took Istanbul a moment to consider everything that the Earthbound Elf was saying.
"Well? What does it say?" Sicil wondered impatiently.
Istanbul looked up at his Lieutenant and the physician. He handed the letter to Ajax and decided, "It's a good thing I sent for Bateau."
"There's something I don't get, AA," Nikolai began.
"Go on," AA offered. He seem not at all perturbed by the fact that Nikolai had his arm around him. To others, it didn't look really all that strange – but other Humans had no idea what was really inside of this girl.
"Well, there's a lot that I don't get," Nikolai said, correcting himself. "But what I'm wondering about is that a while ago Ishida said that you were looking for something. Some sort of mistake that you made a long time ago. What I'm wondering is if you ever found it. Did you?"
AA was silent for a moment, his expression unreadable. Then, he said, "I did."
"Then why didn't you tell anyone?" Nikolai asked. "Or at least Ishida?"
"I am allowed to have my secrets," AA told him, "even from the little one. She cannot hide anything from me because I am too powerful... but she is not strong enough to infiltrate my mind. No one is. A God's mind is something that should never be traversed fully; it can drive you mad."
"So I should tell Loki to stay out of a God's mind?"
"He's already been inside one," AA countered. "And, by all intents and purposes, Loki is already mad in his own way. A Vampire's mind and countenance is much stronger than a Human's. That, combined with his abilities, makes him much more capable of standing a chance in a God's mind. What I'm saying is that I have places inside of my mind where the little one absolutely cannot reach... and that is where I keep most of my secrets."
"So you're not planning on telling anyone your mistake?"
"Not until the time is right," AA answered.
"I see," Nikolai decided. "I suppose that's your right."
"Secrets don't make you very happy, do they?" AA asked, though Nikolai knew that he already knew that about him. "The worlds are full of secrets, Nikolai; more secrets than you will eve uncover in your lifetime. More than your children will, either; or their children, or their children's children. More secrets will be born where others are discovered, and thus the cycle will never end. Some things are just never meant to be known."
"Then why make them in the first place?"
"Because we must," AA answered.
Nikolai sighed. "You're giving me a headache," he admitted.
AA stopped walking, and Nikolai stopped with him. He turned to face Nikolai and gave him a soft smile. "Worry not, Nikolai; when I reveal my mistake it will be at a time where I can do anything within my power to abolish it."
"Is that supposed to reassure me?"
"Is it not doing that?"
"I apologize, then," AA decided innocently.
They resumed walking. The looks they were getting were starting to unnerve Nikolai, and he kept one hand on Shinri's hilt, just in case, and the other wrapped around AA. No way was he losing the God in his girlfriend's body in this part of the city...
"Your explanations and reassurances tend to make me worry more," Nikolai admitted. "I'm sure that's not your fault, but I'm just saying..."
AA gave a chuckle and confessed, "I seem to have that effect on people."
Naota sighed. This trek was taking a lot longer than he thought. The Earth had disappeared from his sight, but it seemed like they still had reason to keep going. He had been so excited to see the moon for himself, but now that he had, he realized that there wasn't much at all to see – they hadn't spotted any lunar rovers or the place where Americans had first landed on the moon, either. He had been hoping for at least that much.
Amaterasu seemed to sense his distress at the length of time this was taking. "Don't worry," she assured them both weakly. "We will be back on Earth in time for you to be sent to the other world. We need only walk until the sun warms our backs no longer."
"What'll happen to you, then?" Naota asked.
Amaterasu told them, "Worry not; I'll stay behind whilst you speak with my brother. I cannot go on the dark side, remember? I will lose all my strength."
Right, because she's a sun Goddess, Naota thought. He wondered if Apollo had to deal with things like that, too. Or Tarot. Did Tarot's power come from the sun? Naota didn't really know.
He busied himself with looking around the surface of the moon. They were avoiding its huge canyons and craters for the most part – they looked hard to leave once entered. They were on a smooth path going in about a straight a line as they could manage. The stars never failed to twinkle around them, some brighter than others, and Naota found himself wondering if they were really Gods.
Naota looked to the side, towards the horizon. He stopped suddenly.
"Who's that?" he wondered. The others stopped as well, looking in his direction. Izumi was silent, and Amaterasu cocked an ear.
Naota could barely make it out and he wondered if it was just a trick or something, but there was clearly a humanoid shape in the distance. It was as pale and white as the rest of the moon's surface. He peered as best he could, but could really discern nothing about this person. Were they not alone on the moon?
"Leave him be," Amaterasu decided. "That man is known as Yue-Laou, the Old Man Of the Moonlight. He carries a book of pairings and marriages, names of those who will tie knots around the wrists and ankles of their truest lover and make them their own."
Naota blinked and then murmured, "Whoa... why's he here, then? Shouldn't he be on Earth or the other world?"
"It is must safer for him up here," Amaterasu explained. "News of his abilities had spread far and wide in his country long, long ago; so he took himself to the moon in order to keep himself from being bothered. He has lived here ever since."
"There's a rabbit wit' 'em," Izumi mentioned.
"A rabbit?" Naota repeated. He tried to look closer at the shape of Yue-Laou, but saw nothing like a rabbit near him. Then again, the Old Man Of the Moonlight was quite far away, and his vision was nothing short of average for a Human being.
"That would be the Moon Rabbit," Amaterasu explained. "There are many legends accounting for her; hers is a face that can be seen on the face of the moon. One legend states that Quetzalcoatl met this rabbit when he was traveling on Earth in Human form. He was starving and dying of thirst, and this rabbit offered herself to him as sustenance. As thanks, he lifted her soul to the moon and imprinted her face upon it. Her soul remained here while Quetzalcoatl promised that none who looked upon the moon would forget the sustenance that she provided for him."
Amaterasu swished her tail at them and then said, "As I said before; leave these lonely spirits be. We have more important things to find on our journey."
She padded off again. Izumi and Naota followed. But when Naota looked to the horizon again, looking for Yue-Laou and the Moon Rabbit, he saw nothing.