24

Change

My world was cracking, breaking, as my mind and soul tried to do the same. My mouth opened into a scream of anguish as I tried to fight back the death of myself. Still screaming, I scrambled further into the lake, dragging myself on the ground. I reached out and grabbed hold of his right arm. My screams were slightly muffled as more Ether got into my mouth, making me cough and choke, stopping my screams, which I was thankful for. I struggled to drag his body out, stay conscious, and keep myself together. Since I was made of magic, the Ether was beginning to eat through my skin, as my magic tried to escape from my physical body, which was the only thing keeping me alive at this point.

It took me nearly a full minute, as I fought to get the two of us out. When I finally did, I wrapped my arms around him, holding him to my chest. "Please, please…I'm so sorry. I never meant to be what killed you. I never…I…"

I coughed, growing-lightheaded. I glanced down at the Ether on my body. Despite what had been happening before, something was changing. I could feel it.

Slowly, the Ether on my body was beginning to soak into my skin. As it did, I grew more and more lightheaded. I felt faint. As I continued to watch, my skin began to glow, just slightly. I coughed again, crying, turning my attention back to Zane's still, lifeless body. "I'm…so sorry," I repeated. "I love you. I love you. I love you."

I gently brushed what little stark-white hair he had back from his face, leaning down to kiss his forehead. "I'm join you shortly, love," I told him as I felt my consciousness growing fainter. The speed with which the Ether was soaking into my skin, killing me, was increasing. I was already struggling to breathe, with how much of the stuff had gotten inside my lungs. The light that was surrounding me was growing brighter. It was getting harder and harder to make out anything. I could barely feel Zane's body against me anymore. I was loosing feeling in my limbs already. "I'll be there very soon, my love," I repeated happily. My consciousness grew even fainter, until, ten seconds later, I slumped forward and all thought stopped.

O O O

Rough hands were holding my shoulders, shaking me awake. "Wha?" I grumbled sleepily, slowly opening my eyes. The first thing I saw was bright, burning, blood-red eyes. The pupils were slit like a snake's and a bottomless black color. I blinked several times in quick succession. "What?!" I repeated, my voice stronger. The eyes pulled away a little, showing me a face that I recognized, but for the large pair of horns, four feet long, which curved to the back of the man's head, poking out from the sides of his temple. "Zane?" I asked uncertainly. The man took a few steps back from where he had been leaning over me.

He was a huge figure, at least eight feet tall. His body was covered in a thick, dark brown fur. His legs ended in goat's feet, cloven and huge. On his back were two large wings. They had no membrane, and instead of bone, looked to be made of the same thing as the Ether, silver with a faint glowing outline of blue. His entire body was surrounded by a menacing aura of black-blue shadows. Only his face looked completely human, besides his eyes and the sharp teeth that showed as he opened his mouth to speak.

His voice reflected his intimidating appearance. "Ana, you're awake!" Though there was a note of happy relief, his voice was very deep and echoed around in both the skull and in the ears.

"Zane?" I asked again, both sure and unsure that this was he.

He nodded. "Yes, its me. I know I look very different though." He flashed a quick, toothy grin. "I wonder if you'll still find me attractive, like this…"

My mind struggled to form an answer. "Is it another illusion spell? Wait…why would you even need to?"

He shook his head, letting out a breath. "Nope. In fact, this is apparently my new normal appearance. If I want to look human again, I have to cast a spell." Saying this he did. I watched with wide eyes as his human appearance, that I was use to seeing, slowly appeared before me. "See?" he asked. With the illusion, his voice lost it's echoing trait. His eyes ran along my body. "You've changed as well, love." He swallowed. "Don't take this the wrong way and hit me or anything…But you're…you're so beautiful…it's actually a little hard to look at you. The amount of light you're kicking off is giving me a headache. Maybe you're like that because you played flashlight for so long, hmm?" he joked.

I glanced down, confused. My body looked the same, from what I could tell, and I didn't see any strange glow or light, like he said. "Zane, I'm perfectly normal. Besides, that's not important right now," I muttered. "What is going on? You…you died, Zane. Your heart s-stop-pped…"

"Well, you see…I guess you could say the very thing that was killing me…saved me?" His expression was a mixture of seriousness and giddy, relief-driven happiness. "I was really worried there, for a little while. I remember everything that happened. Damn, I hated being old and I refuse to be like that ever again. Fuck that!" he growled.

I gazed up at him, still feeling dazed by everything that was happening, what he was saying. "You're…we're alive?"

He nodded, smiling down at me from where I was lying flat on my back. "Yep. We died. And then we were reborn. I gained that appearance, which really does seem to reflect my 'Demon King' title. And you…" his voice trailed off as he simply stared at me, his eyes looking dazed. After a second, he shook his head, taking in a deep breath. "Well…you became like…that…"

Slowly, he leaned down and helped me to my feet. As soon as I was standing, he took a step and we were at the beach, more than a hundred yards from where the volcano was. I took a few unsteady steps forward, Zane at my elbow, keeping me from falling over. I got closer to the water, gazing down. What I saw, though a little blurry, made me gasp.

My hair was still black, as before, but somehow it was fuller, looking like it was as soft as clouds and it almost looked as if it was floating around me. I lifted a hand to my hair and realized that my suspicions were correct. My hair was indeed floating in the air and was so soft, it almost felt intangible. My eyes had become glowing silver. They looked alive, almost, the silver shifting inside my eyes. In fact, they looked exactly like the Ether had, minus the blue outline and glow. My face was the same before…but somehow, I had become twenty times more beautiful. It didn't make a lot of sense, but just looking at myself made me want to fall to my knees and give thanks that such a beautiful creature could exist in the world.

It was disturbing and I had to drag my eyes away from my face. Other than that, I saw no change to myself. Just the strange, magnetic beauty, silver eyes, and glowing. I couldn't see a glow when I looked down at myself, but looking in a reflection I could see what he meant. The glowing, in fact, seemed more of an aura, as Zane had the blue-black shadows that surrounded him before he cast his illusion of humanity. My aura, instead, was a soft, welcoming white light.

Zane moved to stand by my side. "Ana…I love you and I'm sorry we both had to go through that. But…I'm about ninety-eight percent sure that we've been reborn as…Well, I kind of hate to say it…It seems so cocky."

I lifted half-annoyed, half-laughing eyes to his face. "Just say it already. You know you want to, no matter what you say."

He chuckled. "Yeah, I do," he admitted quickly before turning me in his arms. He took my hands in his, staring down at me, his eyes wide and excited. "We've become gods, Ana."

O O O

Epilogue

"…And, that, children, is the true story of the Goddess and Demon King." The old kitsune, fox-man, grinned down at the children. "How was that for story time? You won't ever hear that in your history lessons, children," he laughed.

The young boy with the light purple eyes shook his head. "Master Shiro, you got so many parts wrong. The Goddess' kitsune wasn't white, it was black and his name was Kuro, not Shiro. And the Goddess and Demon King aren't in love. They hate each other! That's why there were so many wars, why they died together, dealing the final deathblows." His voice was filled with righteousness. He knew he was right.

The girl with the mismatched silver and black eyes glared at the boy who had spoke. "It's true. I have dreams. I saw what Master Shiro said."

The girl with moons in her eyes smiled softly. "I think it's a better story. I don't like fighting. Goddess and Demon King loving each other…Better," she murmured.

The boy sitting next to her, with the fire-filled eyes, let out a groan of disgust. "How can you like all that kissy-stuff? I'll just beat them all up!" He shot to his feet, taking a fighting stance. "I'll be the best at beating things!" he shouted, almost like a challenge to the world. "Bring it on!"

The moon-eyed girl sighed heavily. "Sit down. You're being loud and rude to Master Shiro."

Instantly, the boy sank back down, crossing his legs in front of him. "Yeah, yeah," he muttered darkly. Then he glanced up and caught the old man's gaze. "Sorry, Master," he said quickly, dipping his head in a small bow.

The old man smiled, dipping his head in a similar bow. "I forgive you, child. And, no, I did not make any of this up. In fact, all that the history books say is made up. But you don't have to believe me now. One day, you four will find out for yourselves."

The silver and black-eyed girl nodded. "Yep. We will go on an adventure. To see the Goddess!" she clapped her hands excitedly. "I can never see farther than that though." She stole a quick glance at the fire-eyed boy, smiling secretly to herself. "I can't wait to grow up…"

The purple-eyed boy rolled his eyes. "You're such a girl," he muttered. But he too stole a glance at the moon-eyed girl. "Who needs all that stuff when I can have magic?"

The old man chuckled. "Oh, I'm sure you'll understand when you get older. Now, that ends this day's lesson. Off you go, children. Off you go." He rose to his feet, shooing them out of the temple room. The children were quick to leave, laughing and talking amongst their selves, ready to play and explore.

He stared after them, smiling to himself. Truly, they would have quite the journey on their hands. He glanced down at his necklace, cupping the small blue-white stone in his hands. "It's been a long time, hasn't it? I can't wait to see you two again. All grown up…" Turning, he continued further into the temple. There were many things he had to make sure were ready before then.