Finding Crystal

By Lady Meilin

Chapter One: Crimson and Fate

One. Two.

One. Two.

Breathe. Run.

Breathe. Run.

The rhythm beat itself out in Ayumi's head, faster and faster, matching the pace of her feet as they beat against the dry grass. Her thighs and chest ached from the excessive running she'd been doing for what seemed like hours. Her heart beat pounded in her ears. What little breath she had came in quick, short gasps. Sweat slipped down her neck, plastering her long, black hair to the back of her neck and sides of her face.

For a moment, her footing faltered. But in the next instant she was on her feet again, running as fast as she could, the threat at her back urging her on.

The sound of wood snapping sent her mind reeling with fear but she continued on, determined to get out of the wooded area and some where safe. Smoke chased after her, sticking to her face, lodging itself in her hair and slipping into her mouth, making her breathing even more painful.

She whipped around for a moment, catching sight of the roaring red fire, before pushing on once more. It was growing…

One. Two.

One. Two.

Breathe. Run.

Breathe. Run.

She ran as long and as hard as she could but it wasn't before long that she collapsed onto her knees. She gulped oxygen into her lungs desperately, and wound up choking on the smoke filled air. Her eyes began to tear up from the smoke that stung at her eyes.

The sound of wood snapping brought her out of her fatigue faster than anything else could have done. Her gray eyes darted around, searching out the source of the sound. She could barely make out the silhouette of a young woman walking languidly through the smoke.

Crimson. The bright, blood red of her dress stood out starkly against the orange-red of the flames. Her rusty red hair fell down her shoulders and curled around her face – several locks fell across her left eye. The remaining was a bright red. Her stride was lazy and slow as she made her way toward Ayumi.

Ayumi's body tensed, ready for any sign of danger. She watched the woman closely, waiting for her to make a move. Crimson's fingers twitched making Ayumi flinch. She smirked.

And then suddenly, she was strapped to the tree that she had only moments before been leaning against. Crimson came closer, the smirk still dominating her beautiful features. The thick, rough roots that bound her tightened painfully, digging into her bare arms and legs. A root snaked its way around her neck, tightening and then loosening over and over again, teasing her with small bits of air. She struggled angrily, all the while glaring heatedly at Crimson. But all she succeeded in doing was agitating the roots so that they bound her even tighter.

The root around her neck slid off of her neck, causing her constricted airways to open up abruptly. The still smoke filled air rushed in, suffocating her just as much as the root had done only moments before. Her lungs burned furiously, demanding oxygen. Spots appeared before her eyes. Before long, she knew, she would faint.

She looked up, fixing unfocused eyes on Crimson. Detachedly she noticed the root that had been wrapped around her throat. It hovered inches in front of her face, twitching every now and then, angling itself downwards so that its tip faced her throat.

And then it dove.

Pain exploded in her throat, clouding her vision with red, massing in her veins and pumping through her body, obliterating all sense of discomfort. Her body went rigid, fighting off every cell in her body that screamed in pain and for the comfort of death…

Ayumi bolted awake, clawing at her throat. The sensation of blood streaming down her neck and across her chest still played vividly in her mind and her body felt strangely numb, as if it were still fighting off pain. Her lungs fought for oxygen as if the air in her room was clogged with smoke. Red welts marked her arms, legs and the bottom of her throat; all reminders of the repercussions of a Dream Spell.

Exhausted, she collapsed back on to her pillow staring at the ceiling blankly. The clock on the wall opposite her bed read 3:29 am. Normally, she would have her mother's meditative breathing and the sounds of her going through her routine exercises to lull her back to sleep; but not tonight. Her mother had disappeared two weeks ago. Neither her nor her older brother Keiji had heard from her or any of her team members. When they contacted the Time Watchers in Ellaria they had found them in a mess – some one had crossed the Stream with a number of people in tow and with out clearing it with them. It had up ended the entire department but had solidified their suspicion: Circe's dormancy was over. The chain of events that they had all been trained for had been set off. Now all they could do was wait. Wait until they were called and brought back. Wait until they were needed.

Silence permeated through out the house, falling over it like a blanket. It smothered all sound, muffling even the soft rustling of her bed covers.

She turned on her side, willing sleep to come.

But the silence was too great, too absolute for her. It seemed alien in a house that only two weeks ago had seemed bustling at all hours, day or night, with unrestrained activity.

The cup on her night table trembled, drawing it to her attention. She watched it closely, eyes narrow and it trembled again, more violently this time. It trembled once more, the force of its movement sending it over the edge of the night table and on to the floor where it smashed on the hardwood floor. Her eyes widened in surprise.

It hadn't made a single sound.

Warily, she picked up the watch sitting on her night table and dropped it on to the floor. Silence, complete and utter silence. Her eyes lost focus as she concentrated, letting her vision shift. The room blurred and then she was surrounded by darkness as absolute as the silence.

"Ostendo." First one pinprick and then another; the empty void slowly but steadily filled up with pinpricks of magic represented by multicolored lights that moved and shifted never endingly. Her concentration grew, narrowing the pinpricks of light until there were only three: hers, her brothers and an unidentifiable one. It shifted and wavered as if behind a screen and when she tried to zero in on it, it disappeared completely. But it didn't matter, she had already recognized it.

Crimson's magic.

"Damn it." She threw back the covers to her bed and, sidestepping the shattered glass, pulled down the pair of sai that were mounted on her wall.

The door did not make its customary creaking sound, nor did the floor boards in the hall shriek in protest as she made her way carefully down the hall and to the stairwell that led downstairs. Realizing that had she smashed a vase against a wall it wouldn't have made a single sound, she abandoned all wariness and rushed down the stairs, her sai clutched tightly in her hands. In her abandon she tripped over something that lay carelessly on the floor. She caught herself before she went tumbling down the second flight of stairs, swearing softly.

"Idiot," She muttered. It was Keiji's sword, lying abandoned on the stairs.

"What's he doing? Fighting her barehanded?" Gripping her sai in one hand and her brother's sword in the other she continued on her way downstairs. It wasn't long before she found Crimson and Keiji.

Her elder brother was backed up against the back wall of their living room, glaring heatedly at Crimson. The beautiful woman simply stared at him, the now familiar smirk plastered on her face, holding a sword loosely in her hand.

"Desiit!" Ayumi cried out, slashing the air with her hand. Immediately, sound swooped in through the room. The clock ticked, cars rushed down the street outside, and the television on the far side of the living room crackled with static. Crimson spun around, her face twisted into a scowl of anger, when she realized her spell had been interrupted. Keiji took the interruption as an opportunity to remove himself from what had seemed to be an increasingly desperate situation. Ayumi tossed him his sword which he caught easily.

Crimson bore her teeth, an expression that seemed out of place on her face. A low growl rose from her throat causing Ayumi to step back. Then, before Keiji could shout a warning, she launched herself forward, sword raised. Ayumi spun out of the way, sai raised and ready to block Crimson's imminent assault.

Their blades clashed in a flurry of sparks, again and again but neither gained significant ground. When Ayumi pushed forward, Crimson pushed back. When Crimson slashed, Ayumi blocked.

Crimson slashed down, her swords edged aimed for Ayumi's wrist. Blade met with blade once again. The strength of the blow jarred Ayumi's arm painfully, and she barely suppressed a curse. Crimson seized Ayumi's moment of vulnerability and sent her foot into her stomach, launching the girl off of the ground and into the air. Her back met with the wall, knocking the breath out of her. She landed dizzily on her feet, testing for broken bones.

She sighed with relief when she realized that Keiji had taken her place with Crimson. The two were fighting furiously, both pleased that they could take up their fight again and, hopefully, finish it this time.

Ayumi's eyes widened in disbelief as Crimson's sword came flying towards her. It lodged itself in the wall, only spaces between it and her ear. Keiji had his sword pointed at her neck, threatening to pierce it at any moment.

"Where's our mother?" Crimson sniffed disdainfully, before disappearing into a red blur that streaked across the room to Ayumi. Her slender fingers gripped her sword, pulling it free of the wall. Ayumi barely had a second to lift her sai in reaction. By chance she caught the blade between her own blade and the prong of the sai. She twisted her grip on the hilt, wrenching the blade free of the woman's lax grip and lodging it between the wooden floor boards.

In an attempt to free her sword, Crimson had bent over and Ayumi took her chance, slamming her knee painfully into her stomach. She went rigid with shock, and would have collapsed on her knees had Ayumi not gripped the back of her dress. Flipping the sai so that the blade was flat against her arm and the hilt pointed out, she slammed the pommel into the side of her face then released her. The woman collapsed onto the floor, the side of her face bruised and bleeding. If the crunching noise had been anything to go by, Ayumi had probably shattered her cheekbone.

"Where's our mother?" Ayumi said. She smiled mockingly at Ayumi, though the gesture was obviously painful. Her form wavered, before she reappeared standing in the center again. Her form had lost any substance, so she appeared little more than an apparition. They could see that her lip was starting to swell.

"You'll never find her, or any of the other Soldiers." Her voice was heavy with an accent that neither of the siblings could identify. "Circe will make sure of it. Fate smiles on you today. But it will turn on you. When Circe has made her final preparations, it will turn."

The image had been fading through her words, and when she had finished speaking she disappeared completely, leaving their living room destroyed.

"Take her sword," Keiji said, gesturing to it, "Hideki will want it."

Ayumi nodded, breathing heavily, and dislodged the blade from the floor.

"You should call him; he'll want to know she was here." He shook his head and sighed.

"We'll tell him when we see everyone next week."

"You know he won't like that."

"I know."

Amazingly enough, I have found the fervor to start up this story again. I'm very pleased with myself that I've done this. Hopefully I'll become super-active on fictiopress again. Like the first time I posted this story, I'm taking up the rule a review for a review. You scratch my back I'll scratch yours. Anyway, tell me what you think about the revamp so far. Not so different, but, let me know.

If you wanna know when my next update is, visit the link on my profile to my online portfolio. Please and thank you.



ostendo: reveal

desiit: cease