"Hey, lady, the sky is crying."

When she looked down, she saw a boy who went up to about her belly button with a stubborn look on his face. She couldn't help but smile and kneel down in front of him out of curiosity. When she pressed her hand against the boy's cheek, he immediately slapped it away and stepped back as though he were about to attack her if she moved any closer.

He took half of a step back before he spoke again. "The sky is crying, and you have that ring so it's your job to tell the king to make it stop crying."

The elegant princess merely smiled at him with a strange admiration. She had never been able to touch anyone's skin before, and it was much smoother than she ever thought it would be. How she got there from the castle, she wasn't quite sure, but she was sure this was how it was supposed to be. It was her prince's wish that she would be free, and from there the rest would be up to her.

"Hey, lady, are you deaf? Come on! You have to get the king to make the sky stop crying," he muttered in annoyance, grasping the girl's hand and leading her toward the large crowds.

That wasn't quite true. She could hear fine, but she had never spoken before, and it was strange the way the sound of other voices computed into something coherent in her brain. The noises were unfamiliar, as she generally did not hear anyone speak unless a loud shout from outside her castle rang through the land. She opened her mouth trying to make a noise only to fail. At least the boy was leading her towards something.

As they wandered she realized what a small, insignificant area of the world she had seen from her window. There were people of all sizes and shapes everywhere, and they were of various colors, even their hair and eyes. She wished to touch all of their faces as she had touched the boy's, but she remembered abruptly exactly how he had reacted to that. Maybe it would be best to wait.

Through the dirty, tan brick alleys and across the various stone bridges, the smell of sulfur briefly touched the princess's nose. They ran endlessly through the vast city. The sound of a waltz being played by roadway musicians danced along with them as they ran through the expansive cityscape. When she was sure they had to be in the exact center, they appeared at endless gardens where the tallest trees were even covered in ash.

When they reached the very edge of the garden, the boy let go of the princess's hand and took an abrupt step back. She looked at him in slight confusion but still remained silent. How could she speak? What sound would she make? She thought briefly on the voice of the prince, then the singing voice she heard once in her only dream. Those voices were nice.

"What are you waiting for? Tell him to make the sky stop crying!"

Confused, she stared at the boy as his eyes went wide as he jumped behind a tree and hurriedly climbed up it. When she turned around, she saw two tall guards wearing insignia familiar to the blue rose on her ring across their armbands. The female guard took her hand and stared down at her finger and more specifically her ring.

"Is she the prince's bride?" the guard asked curiously.

"Then we should take her to the king."

Without asking her any questions, which might have been for the best, they lead her to the castle entrance and then through thousands upon thousands of quartz stairways. She thought briefly of the coffins beside hers, but the thought didn't linger when she was pressed against an overly decorated door.

"Your Highness!" the female guard called loudly.

"His Highness, the prince—his bride has arrived!"

There was a long pause as no response came from the other side of the door. Then, gradually a gruff voice boomed out. "Does she claim to be his bride, or does she have proof?"

There was a pause as the guards looked curiously at each other then curiously down at the princess. The female pressed her hand to the girl's cheek, and then she moved her hand to tug at the girl's oddly short black hair. After a bit of silence, she nodded to the other guard who took the princess' hand and examined the ring.

"She has the prince's ring on her left ring finger, but her hair is much too short to be a proper lady's hair. Maybe the prince is gay, Your Highness, and this is in fact a man!"

At this, the female guard lightly pressed her hand against the princess' breast, rubbing it suspiciously. After a while, she nodded, though her hand remained on the girl's chest as she turned towards the door again.

"It appears that she is in fact a woman! The prince is not gay, Your Highness, he just has a taste for short-haired, boyish women."

The princess stared down at the hand on her breast, her head tilted slightly. Well, this was indeed quite awkward, because some part of her wanted to slap the woman and beat on her for even thinking of touching her like that. Still, since she wasn't quite sure of why, she didn't act. Instead, she waited in silence for those around her to decide her fate.

There was another long moment of silence. "Does she have wings?" the strong voice called out from behind the elegant door.

At this, both guards paused and removed their hands from the girl's breasts to reach behind her and rub against her shoulder blades. Rub, rub, rub… It didn't seem like they thought about stopping any time soon. After going over every inch, they finally stopped abruptly in unison and turned to the door, banging on it once with the back of their fists.

"She has no wings, Your Highness!"

There was a strange noise of disgust that lingered from the other side. "How strange for a woman who has no metal in her skin to claim to be married to him… Throw her out! Mark her face as one with no wings and don't forget it."

As the booming voice ordered, the two guards looked at each other, shrugged, then lifted up the princess. She stared at them with wary eyes, but the guards said nothing as they carried her up and down thousands and thousands of stairs. When they reached the bottom, they lifted up the princess and tossed her through the gate and into the gardens. After that, they turned to stare at each other, nodded, and resumed their position as expressionless gate guards.

Letting out a soft grunt as she landed on her back, the princess swallowed with difficulty. How painful… It felt similar to when she would rest on her back in the glass coffin so she could see the castle in the sky. That feeling of bone pressing against tender skin, scratching against something hard… It wasn't something she wished to think of often.

When she looked up, she saw the boy and smiled at him, but she hadn't expected to feel a sword thrust into her chest. Choking out, she reached her hand to touch his cheek with faint tears threatening to drip at the bottom of her eyes. It was a strange pain to be pierced instead of hit, but she couldn't maintain her consciousness as the boy pressed the sword in a little deeper.

"Wings? You're a murderer. I hope Hell's arms embrace you," those baby-face lips muttered with an adult hate.

Falling, falling, fainting. The princess blacked out right there amongst the white lilies in the king's garden, and the guards said nothing. Motionless statues.

When the princess opened her eyes she felt a noose around her neck and nothing to her feet. As she dangled, she looked across her surroundings. It was a graveyard intermingled with a bed of blue roses. Stone and stick crosses covered the landscape, but she was hanging from a dead tree with that rope chaffing her neck.

Finally, she caught sight of some life. She saw the boy with sad eyes staring up at her. What could the princess have done to deserve such a relentless hate? She didn't know, and when she thought on it she still didn't understand her crime. Still, when the elegant princess saw the boy's face as it was, she was sure she deserved whatever punishment he threw at her.

From behind the boy, ten thousand and one swords rose from the graves. Their metallic steel shimmered in the moonlight as he raised his hand up towards the endless sky. The princess could only watch as they seemed to dance with anticipation.

Rushing rapidly, a sword shot forth and penetrated her chest just where the boy had stabbed her earlier. Her body jolted back from the force of the violent metal shoving into her body so abruptly. She coughed out, blood dripping from her lips, and the rope tightening around her neck as she squirmed.

The swords rose from across the graveyard, surrounding the girl and the tree. She looked like she was in pain, but metal never had much sympathy. The next sword, gold design, lunged into her side and aimed for her heart. A strange noise was made as it hit her heart, but the sword continued through and exited.

The swords lunged in towards her heart: through her arms, through her legs, through her sides, through her stomach, through her chest, and through her back. She trembled and contorted in pain, finally letting out the first cry her voice had ever made. She cried so long those watery tears turned to blood, sticking against her cheeks and smearing. Ten thousand swords, jagged and tearing, rested inside her body as the boy stared up at her with unmoving eyes.

"Why aren't you dead yet?" he asked her, staring at her. He had made sure none of the swords would enter her through her head, as that would make discussion difficult. "Even if this is just a dream, no one can tolerate that much pain, and to be hanging as well… It's inhuman to still be alive."

When she opened her mouth to speak, blood just dripped out. It blocked the princess's speech, so she waited in choking silence for the blood to finish fleeing from her body. After she finally coughed out the last clot, she adjusted her gaze towards the tree. It was difficult with the swords penetrating her spine, but she still managed somehow.

"I have a destiny to meet for him," she said quietly. Her body ached, and she remembered hearing two girls discuss losing their virginity once, and she thought this must be what it was like to trust a man with your body. This much damage was caused by only a boy. A man must be horrifying.

The boy frowned at her. "No, there's something else. You wouldn't live through such pain if it was just 'for him'. There has to be something for yourself. What is it?"

She shivered, only to feel intricately exactly where each sword penetrated her delicate body. The vibrations from her trembles were just enough to make each blade that passed through her grind against the others. The sensation was awful. It was far worse than your spine rubbing against the glass of a coffin. She breathed softly, a cruel smile on her lips as her body swayed slightly under the breeze's influence. What was it?

"I'm lonely. In that castle, he might be waiting for me. I heard someone singing. In that castle, I might have a mother and father who are deeply in love with each other and are proud of my existence as a sign of their love. In that castle, I might have brothers and sisters with faces similar to mine who have the will to argue. In that castle, I might find someone who knows me. In that castle, I might find the person who locked me up in the glass coffin for those endless years," she said in all honesty, like a child not knowing how to lie to live.

The boy stared at her and laughed softly. "You're too innocent for this world."

She turned her head to look down instead of up into the ocean of stars. She saw a grave marked with a wooden cross with a nondescript name across it. "Prince" was all. The boy watched her with interest before chuckling quietly.

"Then you're Princess Verre, to not die after all of that, and to see that cross of all crosses in your dreamscape." He lifted his hand into the air. "Wings!"

Instantly, the thousands of swords dived deeper into her body and tore her apart, though instead of aiming for her heart, they shifted towards her shoulder blades. Two steel, sword created wings formed on her back. The swords joined to her shoulder blades.

All of the swords had become a part of her, giving her metal, except one.

"Are you the reincarnation of my prince?"

The boy shook his head. "I'm much too old for that. I just want to rule the world like everyone else. The only reason I sound more mature than you is because I had to grow up if I ever wanted to even the score, but I guess I am rather old."

The remaining sword turned and lunged into the boy's chest. He arched his back so it could go straight down into his body before it vanished completely. Rubbing his chest briefly, he turned his attention back to the princess.

"If you're going to that castle, let me be your weapon. I can attain my wants this way, and you'll need a sword if you plan on going to a place like that."

As her metallic wings cut the rope around her throat, she nodded. Gracefully, she landed on her feet and approached the boy, cupping his cheek so she could see his eyes better. "They're the same color as a sword's blade in the moonlight, just like your hair." There was a pause. "If I'm Princess Verre, then who are you?"

"The Sword Gram," he replied. He didn't pull away from her as he had the last time she touched his cheek, but instead stared at her with serious eyes. A moment longer and the contact finally broke, his eyes glancing towards a grave. It wasn't the prince's, but instead one that was far, far older.

"A sword and a princess? Okay. Let's go together. But…what grave is it your eyes keep turning towards?"

Gram pressed his hand to Verre's eyes and gave her a weak smile. "I think it's time you sleep. When you open your eyes, your wounds will heal, but you'll have those wings still."

Goodnight, Princess.

When the princess awoke, she felt something warm against her side. She was still in the garden, but a boy, Gram had his head sleepily against her chest. With a soft smile, she ran her fingers through the boy's hair and slowly sat up with him sleeping still but in her lap, his arms loosely wrapped around her like a child.

"Even if you are vicious and violent, you're still a cute little kid," she commented softly.

Giving him a kiss on the cheek, she stood up as she carried him. Something did seem a little off. As she turned to see her back she saw two wings made of swords protruding from her back. As Gram had promised, the wings from the dream lingered on her body with all her wounds healed. What a strange child this was.

All she could do was return to the palace and see the king. Verre head along the same path the guards escorted her across the first time, and when she reached the door, she noticed they did not react to her in the slightest. To this, she merely smiled and bowed her head, fully exposing her metallic wings.

"How can this be? The wingless girl managed to get wings, and so quickly too. Do you think the king would like to see her now?" the male guard asked the female.

The female nodded decisively and took the elegant princess's hand, forcing her to shift the way she carried Gram. "Then she should see him and explain how she got the prince's ring. And what's this? She had a son while she went off to get wings. She certainly is strange. She's definitely not human, and not normal in the slightest."

They went through the endless levels of stairs, through the mazes of corridors, and eventually arrived at the door. The male guard rapped on the door with his knuckles, waiting for that booming voice to ring through.

"Your Highness!" the female guard's voice cried.

"His Highness, the prince—his bride has arrived again!"

There was a pause just as before, then gradually a gruff voice boomed out, just as before. "Does she merely claim to be his bride, or does she have proof?"

There was a pause as the guards looked curiously at each other before they nodded and turned their attention back to the princess. The woman guard gave the princess's short hair a light tug while staring intensely into those strange black eyes. As she continued on in silence, the male guard took Verre's hand and examined the ring and the insignia with interest.

"She has the prince's ring with the proper insignia on her left ring finger, as an engaged woman should! However there is something oddly peculiar about her hair. Her hair is like a man's, and it may very well be that His Highness, the prince, is indeed a homosexual!"

At the words of her companion, the female guard groped the princess's breasts with both her hands, careful to avoid touching Gram in the process. She gave each breast a light squeeze, rubbed them briefly, and then turned back to the door with her hands remaining along the woman's breasts.

"Fear not, Your Majesty! She is actually a woman with boyish good looks due to her short hair, but otherwise she is the epitome of femininity with amazing breasts that would lure any man or sexuality questioning woman to her!"

This seemed all too familiar to the princess. Verre shifted Gram so he would be safely out of the strange guard's reach, just in case she decided to start questioning which age she preferred.

There was another long moment of silence and another squeeze of Verre's breasts. "Does she have metal?" the strong voice called out from behind the vine-entrapped door.

At this, both guards paused and removed their hands from the girl to reach behind her and rub against her shoulder blades. In unison, they both let out a weak cry and pulled their hands away, having cut themselves against the sword wings.

"She has strange wings, Your Highness, but they are metal wings!"

At their whimpers, the door gradually opened to expose an elaborate throne room made of platinum. Jewels, gems, and other such things weren't present, but the shine of platinum glowed on the king's crown and throne. Otherwise, the glint of metal could be seen on the ornate swords he hung on his wall.

The man, with ornaments in his wavy hair, leaned forward to examine the girl. To her, he looked no older than her prince, but there was a certain amount of age in his eyes that was unquestionable, though she had to admit she probably saw more days than he had. He looked like a king.

"You... Are you the prince? You wear the same ring he did," he commented idly. He tilted his head and pressed his cheek to his palm and elbow to his armrest.

"I might be," she admitted with a smile. "But I only remember being a girl, so it isn't very likely."

The king looked over the princess for a long while before nodding. "Well, you just came into this world, didn't you? I think it's only proper that you get to choose your destiny. So I will give you something eternal and let you be a prince."

The princess stared at the man for a while before she burst out laughing, lightly shaking the boy as he slept against her chest. The boy didn't awaken, but instead turned his head so his other cheek was pressed against her chest as he rested silently. He was so small, and with that dark skin he looked almost foreign, even to her unknowing eyes. She ran her fingers across his pale hair with a soft sigh. Eyes of a beast, skin of a stranger, and the hair of an angel. Her sword, Gram, was indeed someone to be feared.

When the king looked at her funny, her attention returned to him. "I think I'd rather be a commoner if I get to choose my own destiny. I think a story about a flower girl who met a sword and fought against the world by his will is much more interesting than a prince who wants to save his princess."

The king examined the princess's face for a while before he slowly nodded. "From this day forward, you are a genderless flower vendor. That being the case, I guess you will go to the castle and make the ash stop falling, won't you?"

The genderless flower vendor looked down at the boy. Slowly, her fingers brushed against his cheek with a shy smile on her lips. He had wanted the ash to stop, and she felt a sort of obligation to him after he hadn't killed her. It didn't seem quite sane, but nothing really was sane about her.

"That's right. I'm going to go to that castle with him. He said there was something there for him, and I wonder if the prince is waiting for me there, but there's still a lot I don't understand."

Nodding, the man in the throne shifted to bang his fist briefly on the wall. A boy, that had previously appeared as a statue, fell gracefully to the ground, propping himself up with his elbows.

"So that's how it will be then. I guess the best way for you to figure out more about the castle is to ask various people, but for now this is all I can offer you. I received this sword as a gift from the late queen when the prince entered this world. Take him, and go look for the Winglings. They say you can see people who have retained their natural wings when you find water that reflects your genuine self to the east. It's best if you talk to them. Even with your metal wings, if you reach the castle they'll just be torn apart and send you plummeting to your death."

That certainly didn't sound alluring. She did have to admit the castle didn't look like something that liked machinery, and despite her wings being made completely of swords, they worked like a mechanical object when they flapped, rather than a natural wing. If she went there with those wings, the castle's wind currents would probably break them off of the bones they were attached to, and then she would fall to her death.

Slowly, Verre approached the boy who had fallen to the ground, kneeling down while still holding Gram in her arms. He looked at her in slight confusion, but the moment he saw Gram his eyes changed to amusement.

"Balmung. If Gram is here too, I'll follow you as long as you're capable of wielding two swords," he muttered, slowly reaching his hand out toward Gram's cheek, only to have it abruptly slapped away. "Hmm, and you were sleeping so peacefully too, Gram."

The sword's eyes stuck to Balmung's, his arms tightly wrapped around Verre's body and cheek still pressed to her chest. "Balmung…? Stay away from my master. You already took Siegfried from me back then."

Balmung merely laughed at the other's request, moving his hand into Verre's hair. He looked over her face, and then slowly turned to look over Gram. It was just a little bit too interesting that they coincidentally met up in the castle of all places, especially with a princess giving them the opportunity to have a master again.

"Hmm, it is a little strange, but maybe it wouldn't be so bad if we worked together with the same master instead. With her build, she should be able to wield two swords without being slowed down too much in battle, and if we get along, maybe you can get over losing Siegfried. He died an eternity ago!"

A soft sigh lingered in the room. Verre placed Gram on his feet before she stood up to look at the king. "I'll take him, but if he causes any troubles for Gram, I will have him returned to you. Well, I guess I'll head to the east for now."

Gram grasped Verre's hand as they walked along. "I'll guide you, Master. I know the way around this world rather well."

Balmung grasped Verre's other hand. He smiled without saying anything. It was just a little too interesting…