Tears rolled down her cheeks soundlessly, glistening in the faint light. The magic crystals in the cave casted an ethereal glow on the girl, crowning her golden locks with a halo. Her tears fell into an existing puddle on the ground with a plop, rippling.
"Len..." She croaked out, hands weakly reaching up to grasp at her pendant. She sought solace from the reminder that she wasn't alone, and found the will to continue living.
After all, this world had life in it, with people's happiness, sadness, anger and love. She loved this world because it gave Len life. This was the kingdom that her beloved Len lived in, where he was even now fruitlessly searching for someone like her.
He shouldn't be. She was unimportant, useless, save for what fate had chosen for her to do. Even so, she felt a glimmer of happiness at the thought of someone, anyone, in this world caring for her well being.
The sorceress had brought her trinkets and had been kind in her own way, so she supposed that she sang for her too.
She sniffled, and wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. She was glad that at least for now, the dragon would slumber, its cruel, slitted red eyes closed.
She hated those eyes. Those eyes were always waiting, anticipating a single, fatal mistake as she cast the spell with her songs, waiting for the day she would fail and set it free to destroy what peace the people had. It waited to devour.
And she would give her life before she allowed that to happen!
Soft, pained gasps escaped Rin at her agitation, although her resolve had not faltered the least.
A warm presence filled the back of her mind, snapping her out of her thoughts. It was Len!
"...Rin? Rin, is that you?" His voice, though just barely audible, made her feel warm and joyous within.
But before she could reply, violent coughs wracked her body, almost choking her.
Tears welled up involuntarily and pricked her eyes. Her coughing was starting to turn wet and raspy, and before she knew it, there was blood before her.
Blood. A rather fresh colour around here, she observed with some amusement, attempting to make light of the heart-gripping fear she felt at the reminder of her impending death. Even though she did not mind dying, at times when she was feeling vulnerable, there was still an unreasonable fear of death.
The hacking then ceased.
"Rin? Rin! Are you okay?" Len's voice held an edge of desperation mixed with heartwrenching and overwhelming worry.
"I'm fine, Len..." She looked down at her pendant and smiled gently to herself, for there was no one else but her to witness it. "I'm fine."
They both knew he didn't believe her words. He had found out from his companion, Kaito, that Rin would eventually die if she continued singing. She drew on her life force as compensation for the Light element that she lacked. But she wouldn't cease singing, so he couldn't, he couldn't do anything.
She was Dark, yet evidently, so much more innocent and kind than he who was born Light. It was unfair. He should have been the person suffering, not her, never her! If she hadn't been chosen to become the Diva, surely, her kind smiles and gentle laughter would have shone brighter and warmer than anyone else's, like the sun...
Perhaps, he had stolen all her light by being born in the first place. And wasn't that the sobering truth? He mocked himself bitterly.
Rin was strong... She was the strongest person he had ever known of, bearing pain and the looming shadow of unavoidable death with such a beautiful smile.
It should never have been her...
But it was, and that very unchangeable fact broke his heart. With his lips pulled tersely, he let go of his pendant, unable to take anymore of this feeling. The feeling of seeing a loved one in pain, but not being able to help. His eyebrows furrowed deeper, his teeth gritting. What use was he if he could barely be of help when his twin sister was in pain, and nearing death? Nails dug hard into his palm, drawing blood. He felt utterly useless. Bloodily useless.
He let out a mixed noise of helplessness, resentment and distress, choking. Combing through his hair with his fingers in frustration, he tightened his grip, pulling painfully on his hair. He tried to stay strong.
He had to.
However, as a lone tear slipped past his guard, he broke, his knees becoming unable to support his weight, and thus he curled up on the ground and allowed tears to leak from his eyes endlessly.
Just once, he would allow himself to let out his anguish.
Just once, in the privacy of his tent and away from Rin's eyes and ears, he would let himself be weak.
"Soon, Rin... Soon, I promise..."
Please wait for me...
Outside the tent, Kaito sighed and buried his head in his knees, curling up as if to protect himself from the world. His friend was fraying at the seams, he could tell. Len wasn't allowing himself rest at all, and it had only been the thought of contacting Rin through their bond that forced him to stop his frantic and desperate grasping at clues.
Even this once, he had only allowed himself to cry because of their latest discovery. There, at the palace, where the current figurehead Queen resided... There, they would find out from her about his twin, along with where they had been hiding the poor girl and the dragon.
Even though this was the greatest lead they had, Kaito was worried for his friend... For whatever would he do should he receive bad news?
Listening to the heart-wrenching sobs from within the tent, Kaito resolved to helped Len with all he had. After all, his own life was worth only that little, compared to the sole sacrifice behind his homeland's safety and prosperity.
The cruel truth... A lone girl with little hopes of a life beyond serving the dragon.
A girl that he would definitely save, even should he die trying. He felt that he owed this girl, whom he has only heard about, at least that much.
The priestess's story started with a startlingly beautiful girl, with flowing aqua tresses and eyes of gleaming jade green.
For a long time she lived happily with her parents, facing each day with stubborn optimism. She was an ordinary person, with fears and concerns like any other, but she had lived, contented with her life each day.
However, she was treated with wariness and disdain by the other villagers, for the colour of her hair and eyes were unusual enough to label her as a Witch. Ironically, it had been true, that she had been a witch, although not the type the villagers were thinking of.
For a normal person, the girl's soul was exceedingly bright and compatible with magic, to the point of being able to wield High Magic should she bind herself to a higher magical being. It could be said that she was born to do exactly that, as the pull to magic would be irresistible to the soul of someone such as herself. She was rare, a commodity, but the villagers saw her existence as heresy to their religion, which viewed magical creatures as evil.
Most unfortunate indeed, for the girl herself was too, raised to fear and detest magical creatures. To top it all off, the chances of finding a non-creature magical being was too slim, for most of those had been slaughtered in the last war. The only one she had heard of indeed, was the dragon in the next mountain, the source of all fear and hate in this village.
And yet, as the silver lining, the girl was never outright mistreated, the villagers' malice hidden carefully lest they offend the girl's parents. Even if the adults did nothing, children on the other hand were much more cruel. They bullied her, mocking her unusual appearance, taunting her with the things they've forcibly taken away, going so far as to insinuate that she would one day be forsaken by her family for being a witch.
But as her parents have taught her, she bore with it all, until one day... She just snapped. Her furious screams at the children frightened them, and the tense, crackling atmosphere froze them with fear. But as tears fell from her emerald twin orbs, and pent up emotions were brought to their highest point, magic happened.
A huge force was generated, sweeping the children into the nearby shallow waters.
No harm was done at all, but the villagers saw that as an attack against their children, an attack of a witch against their human children.
And thus it was decided. She would be sent to the evil, slumbering dragon as a sacrifice, and should she return unharmed, only then shall she be forgiven for her crimes against the village. Her parents had protested vehemently, desperately, but what was two against a whole village?
If the monster killed the witch, all the better for them.
And so, the girl was sent to that rumored place where the dragon resided, where no one came out alive. Fortunately or unfortunately, the girl's magical condition, the very reason she was sent to her death, had saved her.
It had garnered the interest of the dragon, who decided to claim the girl as his servant through magic. She resisted, truly, but eventually...
The girl screamed, the pure magic burning as it coursed through her body for too many times since she had been captured. She resisted the hold it had on her mind, turning the pleasure into pain through sheer will.
Her sanity was wavering, bits and pieces of her thoughts, emotions and memories thrown away just to resist the magic for a little while longer.
But this time, there was none left to give…
From within her, her soul shifted its allegiance, naturally acknowledging the owner of such powerful and compatible magic as its owner. And then, blacking out…
She moaned in a mixture of pain and pleasure, almost succumbing to the overwhelming flow of magic in her. Waves of heat caressed her, melding darkness (power) into her soul. It took a while until her trembles subsided, and a sense of immense gratification filled her. It felt as if a piece clicked into her senses, as if she had been blind, deaf and numb all at once, but not anymore.
She weakly grinned, feeling untainted power coarse through her, sparks of desire lighting her dull red eyes into crimson. Greed latched onto her, a sudden need for more overwhelming her.
More power, magic! She craved for more.
She shuddered as the dragon locked its crimson eyes onto hers, entranced by the sheer blood-thirst its presence exuded. She felt strong in its presence, she felt special, chosen.
Her resistance in the beginning no longer made sense to herself. She smirked, her fingers reaching up to lovingly caress the mask hiding half her face.
Three months. That was how long it took for her to completely succumb to the unearthly lure of the dragon's power, to cease her foolish resistance.
This mask ensured that she would always do its bidding and she would never part with it, even if she could or wanted to. Which she couldn't and didn't want to, definitely not. This mask, created by magic and gifted to her by the cult's founder himself, was a sign of her status as the dragon's trusted servant, the High Priestess of the dragon's cult.
It also allowed her to access a part of the dragon's magic reserves. She couldn't imagine living another day without this rush of power. She felt light, and nearly invincible.
She was to swear her loyalty now and be granted immortality, and as a side effect, a body capable of channeling the dragon's magic to perform High Magic without disintegrating.
Aah, what a treat.
(She was losing herself.)
"My lord... I swear to you my mind and soul, so I may forsake everything, and may my will be yours to command. My vows shall be timeless, and so I swear, to forsake my name - !"
At that moment, she never thought she would live to regret her decision as an immortal servant of the dragon.
(That was, until she met that girl.)
Divas lived and died in this cavern, their deaths going unnoticed, the occasion celebrated as the birth of a new Diva. The Priestess, having sworn her soul to the dragon not long after it had bestowed upon her a portion of its power, gradually grew cold and apathetic, her features turning serpentine as she was used as a conduit for the dragon's magic.
She let herself think nothing of the girls who plead freedom, for her lord had been nothing but indulgent towards herself. She ignored their pleas as they were forced to sing till their throats were sore, to dance till their legs were numb. She ignored the blood and screams as they discover the truth right before they were torn to pieces alive.
And she did not question if she should feel contempt for the warm, fluid, and living magic coursing through her, for after all, what she felt came from the songs of those maidens.
And she let herself feel nothing for her lord's pitiful games with those humans, nothing but quiet amusement as the dragon feigned its slumber.
Foolish humans. She scowled in disdain. So many sent as sacrifices to weaken her dear lord, only to strengthen them both in the end. Even as beings of the Dark, with the ritual of sacrifice, they could be nourished by the essence of Light, perhaps even more so.
She curled her lips into a cruel smile, her eyes reflecting a familiar crimson shine. She could barely hold herself back from just ripping into the Divas, Light's chosen they were, and receiving their pure energy darkened by blood and death.
But her beloved master had given no such orders, so she had stayed put, satisfying herself with the magic leaking out into the atmosphere as they sang.
They were such pests, she thought, utterly indifferent to the tiny screams of long buried conscience in her head.
She could not be reached by human sentiments any more, her soul having fully synchronized with her master's, the dark and ever expanding abyss it was.
Today, the pink haired diva with her detested warm and understanding smiles will be replaced. For some reason, the nameless priestess had her blackened heart clench as she thought of the stupidly accepting girl.
The girl whose body was laying on the cold, damp stone a distance away, her blood drying and body rapidly cooling. The girl who never faulted her for imprisoning her here in this place, forcing her to sing and dance to the whims of her master.
She was impressive, executing every song and dance accurately and flawlessly. Her voice was captivating, her dance graceful and quietly enchanting. But that wasn't enough to satisfy the dragon who resided in this dark and boring cavern for over centuries, seeing the same things over and over.
And so, when her magic had diminished due to an illness, she was mercilessly killed, her only use thoroughly exploited. She was replaceable after all, just like every other diva...
Even so, there was this irritating emotion that refused to leave the serpentine priestess alone, insidiously gathering up the forsaken pieces of here humanity, and forcing her to see that she still had the capacity to care...
That girl had made her treacherously think, 'I don't want my Lord to wake so soon...'.
That girl had made her feel the contemptible urge to disobey her master.
That girl had made her sneak out of the cavern, just so that she could get a little flower for her birthday.
She made her feel human.
Over the years, there were a few divas who tried to talk to her, but none had succeeded in getting her to reply to their inane attempts, apart from commands for them to sing, and dance, and give up more of their magic, their life... She saw them as nothing more than disgusting insects that could be exploited for more power. Even so, that girl, whose smile was unusually bright in her inescapable fate of dying, had done the impossible, worming her way through the priestess's cold, corrupted stone-heart.
So it had hurt when she was killed, although the painful, bitter feeling had long turned foreign to her.
All she had left now was again her master, the one and only constant in her immortal life. And thus, she closed off her heart again, shutting the door to the tiny sprouts of emotions that managed to grow in that barren wasteland known as her heart, and resolved herself to coldly, icily enforce her master's will onto the pitiful, contemptible humans again.
They were worms, and thus to be subjected to the whims of her great lord. Yes, she was to treat them as nothing more than that.
Her master was always right, in the end.
When the guards had brought the tiny toddler in, she was beyond dubious. They were trembling in fear, but nonetheless, roughly manhandling the blonde little girl into the cave. This was the youngest diva she had ever seen.
Judging by her age, the priestess concluded that the girl was likely taken away from birth, and trained to become a diva capable of masterful, ethereal songs and otherworldly dances, indoctrinated to become a martyr. How pitiful, but it was human nature to shrug responsibilities onto the more susceptible.
No doubt, she would have to try to keep this little girl alive in the harsh conditions of the cavern. So much trouble for a girl of incomplete diva origin...
Even if she had been taught how to sing before she could talk, even if she was taught how to dance from the moment she could walk, it would be a miracle for her to survive past seven years of age. To use Life to substitute Light was suicidal, and even one of extreme will could only attempt this for ten years at most. And for a little girl to have the willpower to die, to have intentions so pure as to withstand the strain for ten years was impossible.
She would soon become another corpse.
Was the country getting so desperate that they would send in this young, fragile little girl?
The priestess was determined not to get close, not to let herself become attached again, but at that moment, when the priestess's resolve was shaken by the tender age of this sacrificial lamb... She smiled, looking too much like her, too bright, too accepting, too forgiving for a little girl soon to be dead.
The serpentine priestess sharply inhaled, inaudibly, for her resolve had crumbled at this familiar smile... The smile she was shown right before that girl had died of blood loss.
"Find your heart, priestess... I know you can still... care..."
A faint memory rose up to her mind, having escaped the confinements of her once scattered emotions. This was not good. Quickly getting a hold of herself, she stopped thinking of anything, and simply led the little kid away as fast as possible.
How could this be? She was slipping. Her hold on herself was slipping. This was bad, emotions were bad.
She would only get hurt if she become attached.