A/N: Not the revamp. Please bear with the terrible writing for a while longer...
-Prophecy 3: Not A Dream-
Faint sunlight filtered through the dusty window of the inn as the sun started its ascent.
Get up, it's dawn.
Cieli felt a nudge on her elbow and shoved the nose away while muttering under her breath. Her mumbles sounded something along the lines of "You'd better be grateful that it's spring right now or you'll lose your tail if you try this in the winter."
Of course this wasn't the first time she's said the same thing, but it always made her feel better when she showed her menace. It would sweep away any traces of vulnerability from when she slept. She became irritated each time she had to get up at dawn, as lack of sleep would nag at her for the rest of the day. Unless they were planning to stay in town for a while, they would make sure to leave in the morning for their next destination. Even if they wouldn't catch that much attention, she much preferred to leave town before there were too many people in the streets.
She blinked her silver eyes a couple of times, thoroughly relieved it wasn't winter. The crisp and chilly mornings never failed to put Cieli in a bad mood when cold air nipped at any bare skin.
If you don't get up now, it'll be noon by the time we leave the gates.
"I know, I know, you don't need to harry," she complained as the wolf padded out.
Yawning, she swung her legs over the side of the small cot and slipped her feet into her boots. Remembering where she left her outer garment, she walked over to the chair next to the round wooden table and picked up the piece of clothing where she left it draped over the back the night before.
After dressing, she stood, staring at the image reflected on the glass. A loose, cream-coloured collared shirt with supple sleeves that reached her elbows covered her upper body. On top of it was a long, sleeveless, jet black vest, extending just past her hips. Her thighs were covered by dark shorts and a black cape-like cloth that encircled her waist, almost reaching her knees. On her feet she donned a pair of black boots with secure buckles that stopped up above her ankles. Cieli's vest tapered at the waist before flowing out freely again due to the black belt that surrounded it. Attached to the back of the strip of sturdy material was a sheath containing her handy knife, and fastened to her side was her leather waist pouch. Her hair was tied with a thin, eggshell white ribbon, giving contrast to her raven hair.
Her attire was easy to move around in and she favoured the style at all times—even during the winter, which was a regrettable thing. Now that she thought about it, she almost always wore mainly black and white; she hadn't worn garments of different, more vibrant colours since she left the library.
Hurry up, the innkeeper's serving breakfast.
The voice was somewhat faint, and Cieli knew that was because there was a cement wall interfering with the communication between her and the ferrl. She wouldn't be able to hear his voice if they were too far away from each other either.
Reaching the door, she opened it and saw the wolf sitting there impatiently. She almost laughed at the realization that he looked like a guard dog with the way he sat so straight, but also a pet that was in a hurry for his owner to come out and play with him.
"Let's go," said Cieli as the gray wolf stood up. They walked side by side down the narrow corridor until they reached the stairs at the end of the hallway. It was a fairly old inn; their steps made the floorboards creak loudly. Still, it was a popular inn and the innkeeper was a kindly lady in her late forties. The rooms were a bit pricy considering the condition that the building was in, but she made up for it by offering her tenants simple but decent and free meals.
The two descended the staircase and after crossing another small hallway, reached the spacious lobby where the front counter was, as well as the tables and chairs for dining.
They were greeted noisily by a very cheery innkeeper.
"You're certainly an early riser. How did you sleep, my dear?" the woman chirped as she bustled out quickly from behind the counter, getting ready to serve breakfast platters and refreshing drinks to whoever else might be up at the crack of dawn. Without waiting for a reply she carried on. "I'll be right out with a steaming plate of eggs and some freshly baked bread. They're just out of the oven. How about I bring you some cheese while I'm at it? I've got some newly churned butter as well! Just find yourself an empty seat and give me a few moments." She hummed happily as she returned to the kitchen once again.
In a matter of seconds the landlady had piled everything onto a tray and walked swiftly and skillfully to Cieli's table without spilling anything. She was obviously very used to her job.
Cieli nodded her thanks as the innkeeper set the tray down, "Thank you,"
"Oh don't mention it," gushed the woman, "Of course, I didn't forget your share!" she said as she set another bowl down in front of Siva. He had climbed up on top of the stool opposite Cieli while the lady retreated into the kitchen. "You're a handsome fellow, aren't you?" she gave him a single pat on the head and turned to Cieli. "You must be delighted to have such a fine companion," she looked at the black-haired girl and waited expectantly for an answer, but Cieli hung her head and said nothing. Knowing from experience to respect her customers personal space, however, she accepted the girl's silence and acted as though she had never made the earlier comments. "Now do enjoy!" She continued greeting the few other guests who came down from their rooms with the same enthusiasm and ushered them to tables, bringing out more plates filled with hot breakfast.
Cieli looked at her tray and began to eat. She glanced up, and seeing no movement from her friend, said, "Why aren't you eating?" Siva's ears were flattened against his head.
She petted me…like a pet.
Cieli almost spit out her food. "You're concerned about that? Lots of people regard majikal companions as pets. In fact, most keep a majikal companion for friendship rather than protection or any other reasons." Seeing his discomfort still, she looked around awkwardly before getting up and walking over to the ferrl. She placed her hand on his wolfish head and gave the fur a friendly—almost affectionate—ruffle. The wolf snapped his head up in surprise. Cieli did not normally act with such friendliness, especially in places where other people might see her. She must be in a good mood, Siva thought to himself despite having no clue why. The girl was already back in her seat, head down, and had resumed her breakfast.
Cieli was, at the moment, having an intense staring contest with her plate of eggs. She kept her face turned towards her food, embarrassed at her actions. It had been a long time since she had showed her closeness with Siva in such a direct way, and to do it now was just difficult.
They finished breakfast in silence, both thinking to themselves about various things. After eating, they went their separate ways as Siva left to check if the gates were open yet—even though most were, not all cites opened their gates this early and Cieli didn't want to leave an impression on the gatekeepers by calling for them to open the doors—and Cieli went back to the room to grab their packs. They were to meet at the gates.
The teenager took one more look around the room to make sure she had everything before she headed for the exit. Upon reaching it, she placed her hand on the old door handle and gripped it tightly, having trouble getting the aged knob to turn. Finally, she managed to open the mahogany door.
And before her stood the blue-eyed swordsman she met the day before.
Blinking, she muttered aloud, "I must still be dreaming," and went back inside the room, closing the door as fast as she could. To her dismay however, Zen's speed outmatched hers as he stuck his foot between the door and the frame before they could meet.
"You're not," he said.
"I'm pretending that I am,"
"I don't think you're very convincing,"
"I agree, which is why I'm wishing it were,"
They both strained at the door, one struggling to pry it open and the other struggling to keep it shut.
"Please open the door, I want to talk to you about—"
"I don't want to talk to you at all,"
At that, Zen fell into frustrated silence.
"I've changed my mind, I'm not dreaming after all." grunted Cieli as she pushed on the wooden door with renewed vigour. Were it not Cieli, the swordsman would most likely have forced the door open with ease.
"Then why are you still trying to shut me out?" demanded Zen.
"It would be a bad sign if I actually saw you in my dreams," she panted, "and since you're in front of me for real right now, there's all the more reason for me to put extra effort into bolting this door shut!"
Unfortunately for Cieli, despite her unusual power for a girl her age, Zen, being a well-trained swordsman, was able to win over her strength.
With a heave Zen jerked hard on the handle and Cieli lost her grip, causing her to stagger forward right into the door. The force of her weight hitting the door made it fly open and with an "oomph", she fell straight onto the surprised swordsman. They both went down with a crash and the top of Cieli's head made violent contact with Zen's chin. The back of his head bumped against the wall behind him with the impact, and the heels of her hands dropped hard onto the hardwood floor in an attempt to support herself.
"Oww…" they both complained simultaneously. Cieli slowly picked herself up off of Zen and rolled to the left so that they were now sitting side by side. She leaned against the wall and exhaled quietly. There was a moment of silence before either of them spoke.
"That hurt," stated the girl flatly.
"I didn't expect you to lose your balance."
She said nothing.
"You have a really hard head, you know?"
She turned to him with an air of annoyance before facing forward again. "It certainly is not as hard as your jaw."
"How is it?"
"What?" Zen looked at her, confusion obviously visible on his face. She glanced at him from the corner of her eye without moving her head. "You can at least try not to look that baffled, you look rather dim witted with that face." A flash of infuriation crossed his expression.
"Are you calling me a—"
"Your chin," she cut him off swiftly, "it's bleeding, in case you didn't notice; I did hit you pretty hard." All signs of irritation evaporated and Zen couldn't find his words for a long second.
"Ah? Eh…uh, yeah, it's all right. I've suffered heavier wounds."
Cieli stood up and stretched, "That's good, that means I don't have to take any responsibility for hurting your precious face."
"Wha—" Zen stuttered as he felt his frustration rising again. Could this girl not make an insinuating comment for just five minutes?
The black-haired teenager seemed to have already forgotten his presence, as she was grumbling to herself once more. "I'm going to get bruises aren't I," She said as she examined her palms.
"Hey, don't ignore me!" She continued muttering under her breath however, complaining about her newfound injuries and appearing completely oblivious to his yelling. Cieli walked over to her packs and rummaged through one of them before throwing a small package of something at Zen, breaking off his shouts.
"What's this?" he asked, staring at the item that she flung across the room at him so carelessly. It was a tiny parcel wrapped in rough paper packaging and tied with coarse, sturdy string.
"You can find out by opening it can't you? I'll even tell you how. You take hold of one end of that string—take your time choosing, it doesn't matter which—and then give it a tug. I'm sure you can do it seeing as you almost ripped the door off its hinges. Next you just unwrap the paper, and to do that all you need to do is find the edges and lift them. Do try not to rip it; I don't think you can use it all and it would be wise to preserve the wrapping so you can keep it later." While Cieli was giving those sarcastic instructions, she had been repacking everything she had taken out while searching for the packet, and now she had her packs hoisted onto her back and shoulders. By now Zen was shaking with fury, fuming at her mockery.
"Good bye," said Cieli as she left the room.
And yet, he could not bring himself to believe that she was completely hardhearted, for what the parcel contained, was medicine.
Siva stood in the growing sunlight by the open gate, feeling the warmth wash over his face and body. He was back in his human form again and was waiting for Cieli. She was taking an awful long time just for grabbing their belongings. The sun was already high and more people were beginning to fill up the dusty streets. He was about to leave his position to check up on Cieli, feeling that he had been made to wait too long—although the main reason was that he had begun to feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny of several young girls nearby, whispering excitedly to each other—when he finally saw her. He watched as she walked toward him, producing a large yawn on the way.
The ferrl quickly tried to make his way toward her, but his attempts were thwarted when the whispering girls from earlier rushed over to him, blocking his path. They all started speaking at once, trying to grab the attention of the handsome stranger.
The girls started to spout what sounded like nonsense to Siva, such as "What's your name?", "Hey, I got to him first!", "Do you have a girlfriend?" and "Would you like to spend the day with us?"
Their shrill voices were beginning to make his sensitive ears ache when a certain silver-eyed girl came to his rescue.
"Excuse me," sounded a bored voice from behind the girls. "He kind of belongs to me." The young ladies turned around in surprise.
The "kind of" wasn't really necessary… thought Siva, though he was glad for being saved. He never did deal well with girls, especially ones that fawned or swooned over him. Cieli was different; although a girl, she was never pushy with him, always treating him normally and for seven years she had always been either a friend to laugh with or a silent companion who was just there for him.
There was no doubt that they would have sent any other girl away with rude comments, but Cieli's intimidating aura quickly and easily sent those ideas to the back of their minds. They shuffled a distance off leaving them alone, but continued to admire the man from afar.
"You didn't have to add the 'kind of' in there," said Siva as soon as they were no longer within human earshot.
"Well," started Cieli, rubbing her neck awkwardly. "It wouldn't really have been right had I said that you did. I know most people with majikal creatures by their sides 'own' them, but I much prefer to at least call you a friend. It feels wrong to claim ownership on another living creature. Maybe even normal pets are barely acceptable, but, a being with as high intelligence as yourself? That's a little much."
Siva knew that Cieli never was one to feel that she could chain another living individual to her side and expect for them to obey orders or offer protection. "Thank you," said Siva. Cieli's head was tilted toward the ground, but Siva still noticed a tiny smile flicker across her lips.
"I think those girls may have gotten a different meaning from your words though." commented Siva.
"Hm? What meaning would that be?"
Siva started, remembering that Cieli was not the type of person to notice or care about these sorts of things and realized that if it were not necessary she would not have taken her time to think any further than the first and, to her, most obvious meaning that her words could hold.
"Nothing," he said as he quickly tried to cover up his thoughts. Cieli eyed him curiously but pried no further.
"No matter; what does it matter as long as they're gone now," then she muttered, "It would've been too troublesome to think of any longer sentence to say anyway."
"You took quite a while getting our things," noted the ferrl, a question clearly heard in his words. "I was about to come to get you; I was afraid that you might have gotten into trouble."
Cieli looked over at the still excited girls, and then tilted her head to one side to send a glance at Siva with knowing eyes. "Oh, really?" mused the teenager. The dark-eyed ferrl knew he was caught and looked away when he saw her eyes twinkling with amusement.
Your eyes betray your laughter inside, Siva thought quietly. "So, why were you late?" he desperately tried to change the subject. Back on topic, Cieli lost her entertained expression and found her irritated one again.
"You were right; I did run into some trouble," she grumbled, "some serious, annoying trouble."
"You mean that trouble?" her companion pointed a disapproving finger at something behind her and she looked over her shoulder—not that she even needed to look to know what—or who—it was.
Sighing once again, the black-haired girl said in her usual annoyed tone, "Do you even need to ask, Siva?"
Despite her apparent displeasure at his presence, Siva was able to notice that her eyes had become somewhat livelier since their first meeting with the swordsman.
As Zen approached, he didn't seem to have noticed that Cieli and Siva were there, for when he did see them, he lifted his head in surprise.
"I thought you had left already," he remarked when he reached them.
"We were about to," replied Cieli.
"I see," was the response. The atmosphere between them was awkward, for Cieli knew he had to have seen the contents of the parcel already, and Zen understood her discomfort, not knowing what he should say himself either. Cieli had not been planning on seeing him again, especially not after her embarrassingly kind gesture. She was now at a loss for how she should act in front of him.
"Cieli," Siva spoke cautiously, as though interrupting the two would cause the world to collapse. "We should get going,"
Back to her senses, Cieli turned from the swordsman and muttered a barely audible "Yes, let's go,"
"Wait!" Zen called out suddenly. Cieli stopped, but did not look at him. "Could we…talk for a moment?" he ventured, expecting to be rebuffed like earlier. To his surprise, she did the opposite.
"Cieli…" Siva said quietly.
"You go ahead," the girl told him. "I'll catch up later," and after a pause, "I might as well get this over with." She gave her friend an assuring nod and waited for him to walk far enough before she started out of the gate as well, Zen following by her side.
"Well?" prompted Cieli. "If you've got something to say, hurry it up, please. I'd like to get moving to the next town soon.
They walked without a single sound passing either of their lips. The only noise to be heard was the sound of their boots on the dirt path as Zen tried to figure out how to word his thoughts.
"Thank you for the healing parcel," he finally said. "It helped very much with the pain."
"Of course it did," retorted Cieli. "I don't carry around herbs that don't have good healing properties."
Ignoring her offended tone, he added, "Also, thank you for choosing to return my family dagger to me. That act of kindness is greatly appreciated and will never be forgotten."
She snorted. "I'd much rather you forget about it, actually. And don't get the wrong idea. All I did was give someone back their lost possession. It wouldn't lie well with me that I kept something that I knew belonged to someone else. Besides, I probably wouldn't hear the end of it from you had I not returned it."
"Still, I thank you."
"Stop it; hearing someone thank me in such a genuine manner gives me goose bumps."
"All right then,"
Cieli halted her steps and eyed the young man with suspicion. "Your honest compliance is giving me the creeps." Zen just smiled to himself and continued walking.
And that smile makes everything ten times worse, she thought as she caught up to Zen.
"You're headed to the next town, you say?" he queried. "I am too,"
"Are you suggesting something?" inquired Cieli. "Before you say anymore, I'm going to tell you right now that I have no intention whatsoever of travelling together with you."
He appeared to be taken aback. "I don't want to force you to do anything you don't want to, but I merely wanted to point out that since we're travelling at the same pace, it would become increasingly difficult to act oblivious of each other's presence. We should at least stay together until we reach the next town."
Cieli knew he had a point, but stubbornly refused to admit it. "Maybe for you, but I'm used to ignoring unpleasant things."
Zen's expression twitched in irritation. "It isn't surprising considering the attitude that you have, but I would much prefer not to hear such rudeness."
"Whatever might you be talking about?"
"Don't pretend; you just referred to me as unpleasant, didn't you?"
"Oh, you noticed? And I thought that with your wits it would go unnoticed."
Zen was beginning to think that there would never be a day where he would not get annoyed by her comments.
"I think ignoring something because it's unpleasant would be even harder."
"Oh, trust me, I have no problem with doing so."
"Then that means even if I did travel with you, it wouldn't bother you, right?" Zen said slyly.
The silver-eyed girl shot him a furious glare, but said nothing. Instead, she sped up to catch up to Siva, as did the blue-eyed swordsman.
Siva turned when he heard approaching footfalls. He was puzzled, however, for he heard two sets of footsteps instead of one. He stopped and watched as Cieli stalked past him with Zen following a short distance behind, and Siva had to hurry to stay with her.
"Don't," stressed the teenage girl, "say a thing."
The ferrl obliged, knowing full well not to probe the seventeen-year old further for answers when she was this vexed.
The Sun was hot and the heat from the rays was extreme, but the wind was blowing and relieved some of the hotness. The breeze swept across the grassy plain, turning up particles of dirt from the road. Exchanging few words and without acknowledging the existence of each other, the threesome continued their long trek to their next destination, Olerba.