Dance of Wind II
A Melody of Hope
They went on and on and the rain refused to let up. Mareina's limbs were starting to ache, but she didn't complain. Ezreal was used to this kind of strenuous activity, so he wasn't even breaking a sweat yet. "The rain helps a lot," he whispered. "It will keep our bodies cool too. I'm not sure if Gonyairs have infrared vision, if they do it's probably very weak, but the rain will definitely make it hard for them to sense us either way."
Mareina couldn't understand how he could be so calm and collected when there were beasts sleeping underneath him, but when she was honest with herself, she wasn't really afraid either. In fact, she almost wanted the Gonyairs to come so she could try out her new magic on them, even though Ezreal had forbid it she had already dismissed his warning from her mind. After a few hours of sandcrawling, Mareina was getting tired, but she forced herself to move forward. Now she found herself staring hungrily at Ezreal, she thought she could even hear the gentle sound of his heartbeat, but she told herself that it was just the rain. "How are you holding up?" he asked. "Fine..." she breathed. Ezreal noticed that there were more sand dunes as they went forward he was feeling a bit worried. I've never seen the Gonyairs make such perfect dunes before... I thought only colonies had this many...? There's no way--
The ground beneath them began to shake violently as the sand was upturned. "Mareina, stay still!" Ezreal cried as lightning crackled through the sky. Mareina stopped and glanced around her at least twenty Gonyairs burst up from the sand, some small and some large, snarling and drooling as their long bodies rubbernecked around, trying to find their prey. They hissed and shrieked to communicate with each other and several of the smaller Gonyairs burrowed back under the sand. "E-Ezreal... there's way more than two here," the girl whispered nervously. "Be quiet for a minute, I have to think." he replied. A moment later he spoke up again, "Mareina, I'll distract them. You make a run for it, all right? I'll catch up later." Mareina refused, "I can't leave you behind like that!" it was hard for her to keep her voice low. "Heh, trust me, they won't catch me. I can outwit them easily, but I don't want you to get hurt." Can he really outsmart eleven of those things...? Some of them went into hiding too; is splitting up really the best idea in this situation? "Mareina, please go. There's no time to waste thinking about it. If we wait here like this, we'll both be eaten."
"...All right, Ezreal, but you have to promise me that you'll come out alive!" Mareina was genuinely worried about him. "Heh, no problem! I don't plan on dying today, Mareina. Get ready, here I go!" Ezreal got up quickly and disappeared in a burst of golden light he reappeared several feet away. "Heeeey, ugly worms! Looking for a meal? Come and get it, if you can catch me!" he taunted the Gonyairs and they reeled their huge heads and shrieked. A volley of spines from the eleven beasts flung out at him like an endless rain of arrows, but Ezreal moved swiftly and evaded every single one. "GO! NOW!" he shouted and Mareina jumped to her feet and sprinted off, but she couldn't help but look back as the heavens thundered and lightning shattered the sky. The rain continued to pour harder and harder like an assault of chilly ice shards she noticed that Ezreal was beginning to move slowly, but she couldn't tell what had happened.
He had stepped on a trap set by one of the younger Gonyairs, a sand trap that greatly slowed his pace; he was struggling to evade the spines now, but he would never give up until he was dead. When he realized that there was no choice but to fight, he summoned a blue energy bow from his gauntlet and began firing white bolts of white-hot energy at the giant worms; they shrugged off the tiny attacks like pins against steel and shot another wave of spines at him it was only a matter of time before he would be caught. A violent gust of wind howled across the crater, and as Mareina's hair whipped in the wind, she gazed back towards Ezreal and knew what she had to do. "There's no choice," she said as the wind whistled in the air. "I have to use my magic, even if I've never done it before... I have to try! I can't leave him to die like this!" He's... the only person I have left!
Mareina clenched her fists as several more crystals regrew on her wings, her fuchsia eyes shining with resolve. Power sleeping within me, it's time I called on you at last... "AWAKEN!" At first, a glorious bright blue aura surrounded her, but it was quickly tainted by a black light. She felt something squirm within her soul as her sanity was wrenched from her the red glare returned to her vision as her lips twisted into a devilish smirk. "ANI VRIEZ! Be still, precious Anima!" she raised her hands towards the group of Gonyairs as she spoke and released a swirling, crackling torrent of icy blackness at them. When they were blasted by her attack, they were unable to act. The crazed young woman sped towards them at a blinding speed and cackled, "Come, come! MA STELER! Feed my endless hunger!"
The Gonyairs' bodies disintegrated to dust as their essences converged into one massive ball of gleaming energy; Mareina pulled it closer to her with a simple beckon and absorbed it into her mouth. Her eyes widened as she became empowered and glowed with a vampiric aura. Ezreal couldn't believe his eyes he had never seen such a deadly spell in his life. "Mareina! Stop, stop!" he cried, but she couldn't hear him. She walked towards him, looking through him at something she sensed nearby. "What are you going to do...?" Mareina glanced at him for a moment and let him be. "COME OUT!" she pointed her open palms down towards the sand and shot several skinny dark beams into the ground and immediately after the several young Gonyairs that had burrowed earlier came bursting up from the sand. They released a glob of goo from their mouths and Ezreal ran to protect Mareina, but she pushed him out of the way with a great force, sending him flying into the sand behind him. "Heheh.... HAHAHA!" Mareina held out her hand and the acidic saliva disappeared.
"Time to die, little pests!" she unleashed a flurry of black icicle-like projectiles at the Gonyairs and they were encased in a shadowy ice; with a flick of her wrist, they shattered into pieces. The black aura weakened a bit after the worm monsters were dead, but still the vicious energy within her raged on. Ezreal came to her side and put a hand on her shoulder, "Mareina--!" Mareina glared at him with crimson eyes, but when she looked upon him her regard softened and the redness faded away, returning to fuchsia. "E-Ezreal...?" she felt dizzy. Ezreal took one of her hands and held it firmly, "Yeah, it's me. Are you all right?" She felt a tingling sensation within her body; there was an insane hunger welling within her, an overpowering lust for Ezreal's blood. She listened to the blood flowing through his wrist and the veins that pumped the delicious liquid through him, but she shook her head. N-no... this feeling... I can't--! Mareina fell forward, weakened by her growing Thirst, but she wouldn't allow herself to harm the only person she could call an ally outside of Thornwood.
Ezreal caught her in his arms, "Mareina!" His voice sounded muffled as Mareina's consciousness faded in and out. What's... going to happen to me now...? She felt Ezreal's warm embrace around her body and could hear his beating heart as her head lay against his chest the sound drove her wild, but she forced herself to be still. She felt incredibly sick and weak; within minutes her body became numb and her vision faded to nothingness.
Mareina awoke at last; she felt warm and safe and thought she was lying in her mother's lap after a horrible nightmare. She did not open her eyes and spoke in a half-daze, "Mama, I had such a scary nightmare... I ran away from home because these weird wings grew out of my back... and then I... met a nice boy... he saved me when I was going to kill myself... I'm so glad... it wasn't real..." She felt a hand gently caressing her head and sighed contentedly, "Mama..." she wrapped her arms around what she thought was her mother's waist, but when she heard the distinct, loud sound of blood flowing, her eyes shot open and she sat up. "E-Ezreal...?!"
He looked at her with a soft, sorrowful gaze but said nothing. "It was... it wasn't a nightmare..." Mareina rubbed her hands together and then looked at her claws that seemed to have grown larger and sharper. "I'm sorry, Mareina." Ezreal was a bit ashamed of himself to have fallen for such a simple trap! "Why... why are you sorry?" her voice was shaking a bit as reality dawned on her once again. I'm a monster.. a monster... "Because..." he paused, knowing that there was no point to discuss it anymore. Apologies were worthless after the damage was done. He took a deep breath and glanced over to a small, crystal-clear pond. "I brought you here to this oasis... you were unconscious for three days." Three days... I don't even feel hungry or thirsty, why?
She looked up at the night sky; there were no stars visible tonight. "There are great fruit trees growing all around here and the water is completely pure," Ezreal explained. "I gathered some fruit if you would like to eat something." Mareina shook her head, "Thanks, but for some reason I don't feel hungry at all." Tension and silence hung in the air for the next few minutes as Ezreal became occupied with his thoughts and worries. "Do you feel all right?" he inquired. "I feel... I don't know. Part of me... is really sad and disgusted and another part of me is very angry. The last part is just confused... and lonely." the girl replied, frowning and laying down in the sand as a cool night breeze blew across the oasis.
"I see..." Ezreal wasn't sure how to respond. Mareina slowly glanced over at the explorer, "Were you... watching over me that whole time, Ezreal?" He looked at her amiably, "Yeah. I was a bit worried because you didn't wake up after some odd hours." She looked out towards the trees, "You sure care an awful lot. Is there something you want from me?" The explorer raised an eyebrow, "Something I want...? Nah, that's not it. You're just... intriguing, I guess." Intriguing, huh...? Well, whatever the reason, I guess I'm glad that he's here. Ah no, what am I thinking? I can't get close to him... look at what has happened already; he could have died back there.
"You shouldn't travel with me anymore," she said flatly. "Why is that?" he took one of the small fruits out of his bag and took a bite out of it. "You saw what happened! You were almost killed by the Gonyairs and I-I just... I don't know. I'm unstable, I don't know what I will do next! Aren't you afraid of me, Ezreal?" Ezreal stared at her as if she was insane. "You're seriously asking me that?" he rolled his eyes. "Listen," he began, holding the fruit in his hands. "I'm an explorer, I'm ALWAYS doing dangerous things! I could tell you so many stories about when I thought I was going to die," he took another bite out of the fruit and smiled as the juice dripped down his lips. "But I'm still alive though, aren't I? I even told you about how I encountered the Gonyairs before--"
"You never had to fight that many before! Why were there so many in the Edelon Cavity...? I don't understand, Ezreal. I feel like misfortune stalks me wherever I go. I really don't want you to get hurt because of me... I think you're a nice guy and I really don't want to see you hurt." Mareina said, her voice filled with all sorts of emotions. "I appreciate your concern," Ezreal replied, eating the rest of the fruit. "But I can take care of myself just fine." His words hurt her and she did not know why, but the smile that followed made her feel at ease. "I know..." she said quietly, feeling silly. "I just--"
"It makes me happy that you are worried about me, Mareina." Ezreal's voice was cheery. "As for your question..." his expression darkened. "This is only speculation, but... I think the Gonyairs we encountered were mostly from the surrounding regions. My guess is that they were driven out of their homes by the encroaching crusaders and eventually migrated here to breed in with the resident Gonyairs. It's unnatural for them to get along like that, but perhaps they support each other in times of crisis. But... I think that the ones we killed made up the entire Gonyair population of Evendia." Mareina didn't feel a bit sorry for the monsters, she was glad to see them all dead and hoped that she would never encounter one again she hated the Gonyairs.
"I think there's something deeper at play here and I don't like it." Ezreal said, wiping a bit of sweat from his brow. Mareina hadn't even noticed the heat thus far, it was like she could feel neither hot nor cold anymore, but she ignored this thought. "Why do you think that? It's just the crusaders being assholes again." Ezreal breathed deeply, "I have seen a lot of bloodshed and chaos during my travels and witnessed first-hand the cruelty of the crusaders, but something is different now... It feels like the land itself is beginning to cry and all of nature is trying to rebel against the King for his harsh treatment of the world's creatures."
"You sound like some kind of druid," Mareina wasn't taking him seriously. "I guess it's from reading my fair share of ancient druidic stone tablets. I've gathered knowledge from all sorts of age-old civilizations, and most of them believed in some sort of nature-deity. No, I don't believe in such things, but anything is possible. If vampires and magic exist..." Ezreal paused. "Well, I'm spouting nonsense now. Whatever it is, something is going on and we should be very careful from here on out until we reach Crescentglade."
Something's really bugging him. I wonder what kind of theories he has spiraling in that head of his...? It's like he's always thinking about something. I guess he has a lot of worries and troubles just like me. "Ezreal, can I ask you something?" Mareina spoke up. "Sure, what is it?" he replied, resting his chin on his hand. "When was the first time you encountered the King's Crusaders?" Ezreal fell silent, a gloomy shadow coming over his face. "The first time..." he stared out into the distance at the hot nothingness beyond.
"I used to live in a city full of magic users called Voinera it existed right at the border between Evendia and Velion, a country free from the cruel king's rule. One day, the crusaders invaded and claimed Voinera for themselves, killing all the mages living there. My mother and father protected me while I escaped the city with my aunt. They..." Ezreal hid his face with his hand. "They were killed... but my aunt and I managed to safely flee to Thornwood. For a while we lived there in peace, because neither have us had never used magic before there was no magical residue in our bodies so we were free from the crusaders' harsh punishment."
"My aunt was an herbalist, you see. She made potions for the sick and one day, she ventured into the Thornwood Thicket to search for rare herbs at the time, no one knew about the Thornwood Poison or the curse that went along with it. She was bedridden for a long time as the paralysis slowly overtook her, and one day a stranger broke into our house and kidnapped my aunt. She was gone for weeks and I was terrified that she had been killed, but when she returned... she wasn't the same." Ezreal sighed deeply. "She had become a vampire... a very malicious and evil monster. She tried to kill me, but the resident crusaders dealt with her quickly; she was captured, tied up and burnt at the stake. I stood, crying as I witnessed the death of the only family I had left..." he paused for a while. "At the age of fifteen, I fled from Thornwood and tried to start a new life, free from the Crusaders. I always wanted vengeance upon them for what they did... but Mother taught me that vengeance is the easiest way to lose your heart and soul."
Mareina came to Ezreal's side and put a hand on his shoulder; she never imagined that he had such a horrible past. "Sorry to hear about that," she said. "But you still turned out all right, regardless of what happened." What a cold thing of me to say. Why would I say that...? Damn, it's like everything about me is changing against my will! "Heh, thanks," Ezreal raised his head again. "I'm glad someone thinks so. But you know... it still bothers me to this day I never did find out who took my aunt. How could he have captured her without the notice of the crusaders...?" He was skeptical, something was definitely fishy. "Four years have passed since then... to think that you would come from the same town." Ezreal chuckled a bit, trying to hide his sorrow. "Small world, isn't it Mareina? Did you always live in Thornwood?"
"No, I originally lived in an even smaller town called Pennyridge. I just moved to Thornwood three years ago... we left Pennyridge because the crusaders claimed it as their base of operations, since the land is rich with resources." Mareina revealed. "I see..." Ezreal murmured. "Well, it's pretty late so I think I'll try to get some sleep. I'll wake up in about four hours; we can continue our journey then if you feel able." He got a blanket out of his backpack and placed it on the sand, then laid down on it and closed his eyes. "Good night, Mareina."
"Good night, Ezreal..." Mareina whispered, watching him closely as he drifted off. He fell asleep so fast... he must have been exhausted. Was he really watching over me all that time I was unconscious...? She was sitting beside his blanket, and the more she stared at him the more a sickly madness swirled within her mind. Her hand reached for him against her will, but she pulled it away. This... this is the Thirst? I can't give in, I'm stronger than this curse, damn it! The night went on and on and her eyes seemed to glow with an eerie light in the darkness, she touched Ezreal's hand and listened to the sound of blood rushing through him.
She licked her lips and leaned down towards his hand and licked it slowly, but shook her head and slapped herself in the face. God damn it, if I give in, I really WILL be a monster. I have to resist this urge... Mareina stood up and walked away from the sleeping Ezreal and stared at the pure-water pond in the center of the oasis. Maybe a cool bath will clear my mind, she hoped. A crescent moon appeared from behind the clouds, illuminating Mareina's pale skin and delicate features she slipped off her clothes and walked into the water. Is it even cold...? I can't feel it at all. She waved her hands around in the water, but she felt nothing. This must be the curse's doing as well, huh...? As I become less human, I become more of a vampire...
"Just what am I...?" Mareina whispered into the night. She glanced at her wings that were still mostly bare of crystal and sighed. These look almost like dragon's wings... well, the ones I saw in my stories, anyway. Like my necklace... She took her silver necklace in her hand and stared at the blue gem. "Mom...Dad...Lance... I miss you all so much. I want to go back home, but that damn King--!!" she clenched her other hand and grimaced. "I want to tear out his throat... I want to rip out his intestines and string them along the palace gates--!" A black, cold aura permeated out of Mareina and into the water, slowly turning it to dark gray ice. "I'll cut off his head and let his blood run through the streets of the Capital... no, no, I'll drink it myself as I crush his corpse under my boot!" The claws on her hands became larger and the fangs in her mouth became more pronounced. "Heh... heheh... then I'll hunt down all of the Crusaders one by one and make them beg for mercy... but I'll treat them just as they treated all the innocents they killed. There is... no mercy for the wicked... no... mercy..."
Her mind was spinning as she tried to fight back the growing insanity within her, but it was of no use. The Thirst in her was coming to a peak if she didn't have fresh human blood soon, she would completely lose herself to the vampiric curse. "Yes... no mercy." Mareina's eyes began to glow red as she stepped out of the pond, glancing out over the sky. She raised her wings, "I will go to the Capital... I will make the King pay for what he has done. Not just for me, but for all the suffering he has caused." She began to hover off of the ground, smiling maliciously. "I'll crush your heart in my claws, you bastard..." But before Mareina could fly away, Ezreal leapt up from the ground and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her back.
"Let me go!" Mareina hissed she didn't even feel shameful that she was naked in front of a boy in her current state of mind. Ezreal stared her in the eyes, "Calm down!" he told her. She struggled against him, her eyes flashing blood red. "I'll kill you if you try to stop me--!!" No... no, I don't really mean that... I don't want to hurt him! Ezreal is... he is my only friend! "I know you don't really mean that," he said softly, holding her tightly against him. "Listen... you can't resist the Thirst anymore, Mareina, or you'll go insane. Drink my blood." Her eyes widened, Drink... his blood? Ezreal brought his finger to her lips, "You won't need much to sate yourself this time. I can't lose another person to this damned curse, Mareina!"
She couldn't control herself anymore, she opened her mouth and bit down on his finger the precious, sweet liquid flowed into her mouth and she felt her body shake with excitement as she swallowed the blood. She licked his finger hungrily, but then her mind cleared and her sanity and humanity returned. When she realized what was going on, she pulled away from him. "Oh my Lord! I'M NAKED!" Mareina squealed and tried to find her clothes as Ezreal blinked. "STOP LOOKING AT ME!" she screamed, and Ezreal closed his eyes, his cheeks a bit flushed he hadn't even noticed that she was naked until now. "I wasn't looking, I just--"
"AARRGGHHH!!" Mareina picked up her clothes and quickly put them on. "You can... you can open your eyes now." She felt idiotic as she stood beside him. "D-did you see anything...?" Ezreal was sweating a bit, "Ummm... n-not really... well I mean, you have a nice body--" She hid her face in her hands, "Oh my god! I feel so dirty... I can't believe I... I LET A MAN SEE ME NAKED BEFORE I WAS MARRIED! AAGGHHH!!" Ezreal rubbed the back of his head, "H-hey... it's okay, I won't tell anyone, I promise! Look, um... I didn't really see much, just your--" Mareina glared at him, "DON'T TELL ME! OH MAAAAAAN MY MOM WOULD KILL ME IF SHE FOUND OUT!" Ezreal sat back down on the blanket and gestured for Mareina to sit with him; once she did, he rested his hands in his lap. "So you have family back in Thornwood, huh...?" he asked.
"Yeah, didn't I tell you?" Mareina couldn't remember. "No, I don't think you did," Ezreal replied. "Tell me about them." The girl blinked. He really wants to know? Thinking about her family made her feel a bit sad, but no matter how horrible she felt, she could not cry. "My Mom and Dad and older brother, Lansen... I really miss them a lot, Ezreal. I want to see them again..." she sighed, pulling her knees close. "Do you think they miss me?" Ezreal pat her hand, "I know they do. You'll be able to go back some day, Mareina. I'll make sure of that."