“Footsteps? No one should be on this floor but me." Saluka thought getting a little nervous and scooting closer to lance.
Then the door burst open, revealing the owner of the footsteps .Birch stood framed in the large doorway, and he was livid. The scene before him looked very different than it actually was. Saluka was sitting on the edge of the bed and was leaning slightly towards the injured boy and he was leaning a bit toward her. To Birch it looked like they were close enough to have either just kissed or were about to kiss. It also irked him that she seemed to be really concerned about this boy she had never met before today.
Then he noticed that the boy had rounded ears instead of pointed ears, marking him as a human for all the world to see. With narrowed eyes he stepped forward a single step before a sharp glint of light caught his eye. Following the glint he was a long rapier like blade resting against the side of the bed. How he hadn't noticed it before was beyond him; the thing was huge! IT was almost four feet in length and was probably sharp as a razor blade. Shaking his head slightly he ignored the sword and stepped forward, trying to look menacing. As he moved again the teen reached for the sword beside him, his fingers wrapped snugly around the leather wrapped hilt. Birch froze as his fingers closed around the hilt, not wanting the kid to draw the sword and risk hurting Saluka. She was still in the same place as before but now she was sitting up straight in her seat.
She did look incredibly nervous, however, she chose to stay where she was. All three of them stayed in the same position for the longest time, just looking at each other. The blue haired woman looked between the two men in front of her and could feel the tension radiating off of them. Soon it was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife. Both looked like they were about to try and kill each other if one made the wrong move. Lance sat there with his whole body tense, his right hand wrapped securely around Rail's hit as he surveyed birch. The other was standing in the middle of the room glaring at lance as though it would do him any good. His hands were clenched at his sides and his knuckles were a bright white color. If he really wanted to he could leap across the room in two seconds flat and tear Lance limb from limb, not that Saluka was going to allow that but he could if he wanted to.
Even Lance looked very deadly despite being wrapped up in bandages. The black tribal markings covering his arms, hands and face also helped add to this effect. His eyes darkened to the point that they were almost completely black. When Birch stepped forward again he leaned forward a little more and his face shifted into a slight snarl. Saluka made a split second decision and stood in between the two men. She was now in between them with her hands out to the sides, looking between the two of them, a dark look in her eyes. Both men reeled back a bit in surprise.
Birch actually took a full step back, a hurt look on his face while Lance just sat up a little straighter, the snarl slipping from his face. He pulled Rail up onto the bed, clearly a threat but he let go of the hilt. Both of them seemed to know that if the tried to attack each other Saluka was probably going to get hurt in the process. Neither of them wanted that so the both relaxed, but only a little bit. Seeing them relax mad Saluka relax a bit but she still maintained her position. Birch’s jaw tensed slightly when he saw her face; there was no way in hell that she was going to let him get anywhere near Lance. That much was certain.
“Birch, if you come in here steaming like that and spoiling for a fight I'm sorry but you are going to have to leave. You know as well as I do that he is injured and is in no condition to fight anyone at this time. I will not let you even try to initiate a fight with him. It would be against my code of ethics as a medic." Saluka said sternly looking at him with fierce eyes her face slightly red.
“Saluka, wait this guy is a human! You know how dangerous they are! They are not welcome here and are almost never seen in the Outside because they are so dangerous! Why are you helping one?" birch asked, looking heartbroken and betrayed.
"I understand that humans are often portrayed as dangerous beings but I don't think that Lance is one such human. Besides you have never met a human so how can u judge someone you haven't even met, hmm?" Saluka countered with putting her hands on her hips.
Lance watched the scene with slight interest as birch floundered for some kind of comeback. Too bad the only thing he came up with was a lame comment about how, despite never having met a human before, he didn't like or trust Lance. That comment stung a bit causing the redhead to frown slightly. Turning he pulled himself to the edge of the bed, lightly placing his feet on the floor. Rail had been pulled after him and was now lying on the full width of the large bed. Taking a deep breath Lance tried to stand but pain ripped through his chest and side as he did so. The pain was so intense that he fell to his knees, one arm wrapped around his body. Rail was forgotten on the bed as he doubled over and gasped in pain.
Saluka was at his side the moment his knees hit the ground. She knelt in front of him and gently placed her hands on his shoulders. Birch tensed up as he watched her do this. It was a little hard to see from the angle he was at but the dark haired man could have sworn that he saw a concerned look on the young Monel's face. That was the last straw; there was no way that a lousy human was going to take what was his and Saluka sure as hell was his.
Stepping forward he reached out and grabbed her arm, yanking her to her feet and away from Lance. A split second later Lance was moving. He hauled himself off the ground in one fluid motion, snatching Rail up as he did so. Swinging his arm with all his might he brought the long, thin blade in a sweeping arc. The attack seemed to have no control what-so-ever but it was in perfect control. Lance had timed it just right so that he swung when Saluka stumbled and dropped below where the blade would hit. Birch stepped back when he was the flash of black but it was a little too late; the blade sliced open the side of his face from the corner of his jaw all the way to his hairline on the other side of his face.
The pain hit the taller man so suddenly that he let go of Saluka just as she was about to try and yank her hand away. With a soft cry she stumbled back into a strong chest. Turning slightly she found herself leaning against Lance who was standing right behind her. His body was tense and he seemed to be using Rail as a bit of a cane to keep himself upright. Emerald eyes widened slightly as she saw pain reflected in his blue eyes. Apparently he had stepped forward to break her fall but hadn't really thought about his own injuries. She had landed right where the long jagged wound split his chest open.
Then she looked a little closer at his face. There was a determined look in his eye that hid most of the pain he was feeling as he stood there. Saluka shook her head slightly and stood up straight. That was when she realized that Lance was taller than she was. At first she had thought that he was about her height but apparently he wasn't. Hearing a pained whimper she turned to see birch kneeling on the ground holding onto his face. Blood seeped from between his hands as he continued to sit there and whimper. He probably thought that she was going to patch him up. Under normal circumstances she would have but he provoked that response from Lance. She was just going to get a servant to patch him up. As it was she probably had re-bandage Lance after she fell against him. There was no way that she was going to leave him in dirty bandages for too long. Turning back to the teen she saw that the determined fire in his eye had faded and was now replaced by pain once again.
"Lance, why don't you lay back down? I'll go get you something for the pain, alright?" she asked gently placing a hand on his shoulder again.
"Alright. I would like that, please." was the soft reply.
Smiling gently she carefully guided him back to the bed before moving swiftly past birch and out the door. Grabbing a passing servant she ordered them to take care over Birch by take care of she meant "send him to the hospital because I can't deal with him right now". Only after receiving confirmation from the servant did she go and get some pain pills for Lance. While she was in the medicine closet she even grabbed the few things that she would need to re-change someone's bandages.
When she returned to the room she found lance sleeping soundly once again and saw Rail sitting beside him. Smiling softly she came into the room and set her armful of stuff on the bedside table and looked at the spirit. He had long hair but it was hard to see what color it was but everyone, when asked that is, would say that it was silver because that was the most prominent color. The long strands were pulled up into a loose braid that fell over his right shoulder down to his hips. His light red tunic was gathered at the waist by a soft leather belt and his pants were made of the same soft light brown leather. His boots on the other hand were a good quality stiff black leather that had lots of scratches and scuffs in it from many days of traveling. Another interesting feature of the spirit were his eyes; they were the exact same color as his hair. The piercing silver orbs could see though almost any kind of deception. It gave him a huge advantage in battle. All in all he was an amazing warrior, with or without a body. Upon hearing her set her things down the silver haired spirit turned to the young Monel and smiled.
"He fell asleep a few moments ago." he said, his baritone voice very soft so as not to wake his master.
"I see. All the excitement with birch must have tired him out." Saluka replied with a smile.
"Indeed." Rail nodded looking back down at the teen.
They both looked at him in silence for a moment before Saluka spoke up, "Rail? Are you going to stay and protect him?"
"Yes, I am. He saved me from that awful guard at the Facility. I owe him a debt. One that will probably never be fulfilled but I don't mind." the spirit replied, turning to look at the young Monel, his youthful face twisting into a bright smile.
"Alright. I hope you stick to that promise, Rail. I would hate to see anything happen to either of you."
Rail laughed softly and shook his head. Looking back at Saluka he told her that he was going to go back into his blade for a bit. She nodded and told him that if she or Lance needed him that they would call for him. Giving the young Monel a slight bow he faded away, leaving her alone in the room with Lance. Saluka reached out after a few moments and grabbed a chair which she dragged over beside the bed so that she would be there when he woke up again. As an afterthought she got up and went to retrieve the thick medical journal that she had gotten from the library before Rail had come looking for her. Stepping softly back into the room she curled up in the chair and opened the book. Eventually she too fell asleep, lulled into unconsciousness by the stiffly worded pages in front of her.
It was dark by the time Saluka woke up again. Lance was still asleep and she took that as a small blessing. Getting up she stretched her stiff limbs, bouncing around a bit as the blood came rushing back to her legs and arms. Hissing softly to herself she made a mental note to never fall asleep in a chair ever again. It was downright uncomfortable to say the least.
As she stretched her arms above her head she heard a soft groan. Turning she saw Lance's eyes flutter open slowly. Smiling gently she leaned over a bit and immediately his eyes focused on her face. With her smile widening into a grin she leaned back as he sat up. Carefully he stretched and yawned, one hand covering his mouth and the other still extended over his head. When he finally turned back to Saluka she had sat back down into her chair.
"Good evening sleepy head." she said, mirth obvious in her voice.
"Good evening. How long was I asleep?" he asked rubbing one hand over his eyes.
"I would say a grand total of about ten or twelve hours, give or take. It's been a long day for you."
"Ten or twelve hours? Really? Wow, I have never slept that many hours in my entire life. That is I don't think that I’ve ever slept that long before." Lance said, looking down at the last part.
"You think? Do you not remember your past?" Saluka asked, clearly concerned for the redhead.
"No. The only thing I know for sure is that my name is Lance and that apparently I am really good with a sword."
"OK then. It might be a side effect of your coming to the Outside." the blue haired Monel mused putting a hand to her chin.
"The Outside? What is the Outside?" the redhead asked looking totally lost and confused.
"This is the Outside. Or rather this is the Luminia Province of the Outside," Saluka began but stopped, "Hold on just a second. I'll be right back."
"Where are you going?" he asked as she hurried toward the door.
"The family library. I'm getting something that will help me explain things to you. Just sit tight, OK?" Saluka said as she darted out the door and around the corner.
Lance huffed irritably whispering to himself as he did, "Well, what else am I going to do? Wander around and get myself hopelessly lost in the process? No thank you."
With that he settled back into the pillows a bit and looked around the room. It was quite the large space, as was attested to by the king size bed he was on right now. There were only minimal decorations and very little in the way of a personal touch. At first Lance pegged it a s some kind of guest room but then he saw a few pictures of Saluka and people he assumed to be her family sitting on the bed side table. All of them were happy and smiling in just about every single one of the photos. There was only one photo where the seemingly customary smiles were missing and that had just Saluka in it wearing all black. Lance bit his lip when he saw that photo; it immediately hit him that there should never be a sad look on the young woman's face. Then he noticed something that he had completely overlooked every time he looked at the young woman. It was her ears and how they came to nice, neat points a little beyond the back of her head.
Now that he had noticed them it seemed like you could tell her moods by the way that her ears were. For instance in the only sad photo her ears were down and she looked like she was crying but in all of the other photos they were up and she was smiling. It was a little bit of a strange thing but he was glad that he didn't have to worry about displaying his emotions so openly. That would have probably caused a lot of problems. Shaking his head Lance looked back at the door just as Saluka came back in. She was holding a large, leather bound book that seemed like it should be too heavy for someone of her stature to carry as easily as she was. Walking over she dropped back into her chair and held the book out to him.
"Here it is!" she said with a bright smile.
"What exactly is it?" Lance asked taking the large book carefully and biting back a hiss as the heavy book pulled on his torn muscles.
"It's a book on the complete history of the Outside," she said before she noticed that he seemed to be hiding something, "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Never been better." Lance lied, faking a smile.
"No you are not fine. Give me the book back. I need to re-bandage your wound anyway." Saluka demanded holding out her hands for the book.
"OK then. Here you go."
Lance passed the book back to her and she placed it on the bedside table before grabbing some of the pain pills. Handing them to Lance she instructed him to take them as she worked on removing the other bandages. Deciding that it was best not to argue with her the teen dry swallowed the two pills before looking back at her. She was picking apart the knot at the top of the bandages. Once that was undone she had him lift his arms out to the sides as she unraveled the slightly stained, white bandages. As they came away Lance hissed when they pulled at the torn edges of his wound. Saluka apologized every time the bandage pulled on the world. Unfortunately there was nothing that she would do about it. They had to come off and this was the easiest way to do it. Once they were all the way off she reached forward and gently touched the wound.
It still looked pretty bad but it was better than before. Nodding to herself she turned and grabbed one of the jars she had brought back with her. As she turned she unscrewed the cap, placing the lid on the bed beside the redhead. Giving him a smile she dipped her fingers into the jar and removed some of the cloudy substance. Lance flinched back slightly as she moved to coat his wound with it.
"What is that stuff?" he asked, looking nervous.
"It's a healing salve. If I don't apply it there is a chance that your wound might take a lot longer to heal. The reason it looks so good right now is because of this salve." Saluka explained patiently.
"OK then." Lance said, still looking a little nervous but he allowed her to smear the cloudy gel across his chest and side.
The effect was almost immediate; the slight burning sensation that accompanied a knife or sword wound faded almost like magic. The redhead couldn't help but sigh as his blue eyes fluttered closed. Saluka smiled softly; this was the kind of reaction that always happened whenever she used this particular salve. As soon as she finished applying the salve she picked up a roll of white gauze and started wrapping him up again. Lance looked down at her as she re-wrapped the bandages tightly around his chest before turning to look out the window. For a few seconds he was stumped by what he was seeing; the entire landscape seemed to glow. It was a truly amazing sight but he wondered if he was dreaming. When he asked Saluka about is she merely looked up at him before turning to the window herself.
"No, you aren't dreaming. This is why this area is called Luminia. Just about every bit of plant life glows once darkness falls. Otherwise things would be very dark here indeed. As it is we don't need to Provinces that are pitch black when night falls." she said with a soft laugh before she went back to bandaging him up.
"Oh, OK then," Lance said looking down only to look up a few seconds later, “Wait, what do you mean by that? The whole 'we don’t need there to be two Provinces that are pitch black' thing."
"Oh! Sorry. I keep forgetting that you don't know anything about the Outside. Well, there is the Umbra Province that is always dark in some way or fashion. When night falls in the Umbra province the only people allowed outside are the native Umbrans. They have the most superior night vision out of all of the people in the Outside. If anyone else was to go outside then you might never see them ever again." the blue haired woman said with a slight shrug as she tied the knot on the top of the bandages.
"I see. What are the other Provinces?" the redhead asked, clearly curious.
"Well, there's Luminia, Umbra, Gale, Botana, Terrama, Electan, Aquea, Pyramos, Cyrana, and Fernum. All of them have different specialties and climates that are unique to their Province. For example, Luminia has plants that glow at night, Umbra it pitch black at night, and Pyramos has temperatures that are always hot, no matter where you go or what you do."
"Wow that sounds a little intense." Lance whistled softly.
"It is. Most people only ever staying Pyramos for a few days at most and when the natives of Pyramos go to the other Provinces they wear a special outer coat that simulates the hot temperatures of their home Province. Needless to say, however, do they never go to the Cyrana Province," Saluka said, placing what was left of the bandage roll on the bed side table.
"Why is that?"
"Cyrana is nothing but ice. The people of Pyramos can't handle the subzero temperatures, even with their special coats. It's just too cold for them." the woman said with a shrug.
Lance nodded slowly and asked her to tell him about all of the other Provinces. Smiling she pulled put the book and slipped t open to a detailed map of the Outside. Easily she pointed out where all of the Provinces were before pointing out the capital cities. Lance listened intently as she spoke, careful not to interrupt with unnecessary questions or comments. Even so one or two odd comments or questions slipped past his lips. Every time this happened it brought a smile to Saluka's face as she either answered a silly question or comment. Eventually though they were distracted by a rumbling sound. Saluka blinked and looked around while Lance looked sheepish.
"What was that?" she asked looking around still.
"That was my stomach. I haven't eaten anything all day long." Lance said, smiling nervously as one hand rubbed his stomach.
"Oh my! I'm sorry! Hold on, I'll get a servant to bring us up something to eat. I'm so sorry, Lance." Saluka said, setting the book aside so that she could ring the small bell on her bed side table.
A few seconds later the door opened slowly to admit a timid looking girl who also had pointed ears like Saluka. In a soft voice she asked what her mistress desired. Saluka gave the girl a warm smile before telling her that she wanted dinner for two sent up to her room. At the words "for two" the young girl's head snapped up to look at her mistress. As soon as she did, however, she looked back down at her feet. The blue haired Monel laughed softly and explained Lance's presence in the house. Nodding furiously the servant girl waited to be dismissed before scurrying out of the room. Saluka turned back and was met with an inquisitive face.
"OK, Ok. Normally I don't have people over at all. Birch was the last person who stayed over for any length of time at all. None of the servants are used to seeing people who are going to stay the night," she explained, shifting slightly in her seat.
"Birch? Who is Birch?" Lance asked leaning back slightly into the pillows.
"He is the guy whose face you sliced open.” was the simple reply.
"The same guy who came storming in here and demanded to know why you were helping me?"
"Yep. That was Birch. He's my ex-boyfriend." Saluka said with a shrug as she settle into her chair.
Lance merely nodded and was quiet for a few second before he spoke up again, "Why are you helping me anyway? I really want to know that."
"That's easy," Saluka said, pulling her legs up underneath her body, "First off, it is a policy of mine to never leave an injured person to die if they can be saved and secondly I felt this odd connection to you when I first saw you. It was really weird and I want to figure out what it is."
"OK then." Lance replied looking down at his hands.
"That and Rail seemed pretty desperate to save you so I knew I had to help you out." she said with a smile.
"Rail? Did he find you and ask you to help me?"
"More like demanded that I help you. He was fit to be tied when he came to me earlier today. IT was quite the sight. Normally he's really calm and composed but this time he was freaking out to the extreme." the blunette said with a wave in the sword's direction.
"I thought that he was a possessing spirit. How could he go find you? Have the blade grow legs and walk away?" Lance asked, looking incredulous.
"I think I'd better let him explain it to you." Saluka said with a soft smile and another wave in the sword's direction.
"Yes, it might be best if I explain it to him. It might make more sense that way." Rail's smooth baritone voice filled the room and Lance turned to look at the sword.
His eyes widened at what he saw; instead of just the long black blade resting against the bed he saw a man with long silver hair dressed in a red tunic, brown leather pants, stiff black boots and stiff black bracers sitting on the edge of the bed. There was a soft smile on his face and in his bright silver eyes. He seemed awfully happy to see Lance awake and moving. Giving the teen a small bow he introduced himself as Rail and Lance's blue eyes almost bugged out of his head. After all the only thing he knew about Rail was that he was a spirit possessing a sword that he had liberated from a brutish guard. It was a total shock to find out that he could even take on a physical form.
"It is nice to finally meet you properly, Master." Rail said bowing to Lance again.
"Y-yea... Nice to meet you too, Rail." Lance mumbled, still totally dumbstruck by the spirit before him.
"I see that my sudden appearance has surprised you. I am sorry for that. It's just a little hard to take a semi-corporeal form while being on the move and fighting at the same time. Had I been able to I would have so as to have spared you the shock now." Rail said looking slightly abashed.
Lance shook his head quickly, "No, it's alright! Today had just been a really crazy day and my brain still has yet to catch up with it yet. True, you really did surprise me with this but I'm not so surprised as to totally flip out on you."
The silver haired spirit looked up at the redhead and smiled at him. Lance managed a small smile in return as the spirit straightened up in his seat. Once that little snafu was over he proceeded to explain exactly how he was able to go and retrieve Saluka from the city. Again Lance displayed amazing listening skills throughout the explanation. Once again the occasional random question and odd comment slipped out. Every time it happened the teen looked slightly abashed and looked away from the spirit. Eventually he had had enough of the silly behavior and placed a translucent hand on the teen's bare shoulder. Lance looked up at him, blue eyes wide.
"Master, please, stop beating yourself up over the little comments and questions you have. It is alright to ask them. I don't mind dealing with it. I'm sure Saluka would be alright with it as well. She is very good at answering questions. I should know, I asked her a million and two when I first met her myself." Rail said with a smile as he glanced over at the blunette who was nodding in agreement.
"He's right, Lance. We both don't mind answering any and all questions you have. I'm fairly certain you have way more than the few that you have asked us so far. Go ahead let it out, just give us time to answer before you launch into the next question." Saluka said with a smile.
"Are you sure?" Lance asked, looking between the two of them.
"You betcha we are."
"OK then. Thanks you two." Lance smiled at them.
Before any more could be said, though, there was a knock on the door. Saluka got up and opened the door, admitting two servants who were pushing a mid-sized trolley with a few covered trays on top. Lance looked at the trays curiously until the servants pulled the tops off, revealing some of the most interesting looking food the redhead had ever seen. At first he was really skeptical about the food until he got a whiff of what it smelled like. It smelled like the most amazing thing in the world! He almost didn't care what the food looked like, just so long as it tasted as good as it smelled. At that moment that was all that mattered to him. Both Saluka and Rail laughed at him and he realized that he was actually drooling.
Blushing furiously he wiped the drools from his mouth and looked away, totally mortified. This only caused Rail to laugh harder at the teen. Thankfully enough his body was only slightly corporeal so Lance couldn't actually hurt him even though he really wanted to. The redhead, red faced teen had to settle instead for glaring at the oblivious spirit. After a few seconds, because he was laughing so hard he fell off the bed and landed on the floor. Too bad it didn't make a sound though. Lance would have loved nothing more than to wipe the laughter from the spirit's face at that very moment. Thankfully he was saved any further embarrassment by Saluka handing him a plate of food. The teen completely forgot about being angry at the sword spirit in favor of filling his grumbling stomach. Saluka smiled as he dug in, deciding to wait until the meal was finished to tell him exactly what he was eating. Even then she decided that it might be better not to tell him at all, if only to keep herself from having to deal with massive headache later on.